Excerpt from An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

An Unnecessary Woman

by Rabih Alameddine

An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine X
An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2014, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2014, 304 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Naomi Benaron
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Excerpt
An UnnecessaryWoman

My father named me Aaliya, the high one, the above. He loved the name and, I was constantly told, loved me even more. I do not remember. He passed away when I was still a toddler, weeks before my second birthday. He must have been ill, for he died before impregnating my mother with another, as he was supposed to, expected to, particularly since I was female and first. My country in the late 1930s was still trying to pull itself out of the fourteenth century. I'm not sure if it ever succeeded in some ways. My father was barely nineteen when he married and twenty-one when he died, my mother a widow at eighteen. They were supposed to spend aeons together. It was not to be.

What to do with a young widow? The families convened. My mother's family, having thought they had one fewer mouth to feed, now had two more. It is said that my maternal grandfather hinted that they were given a defective model. The families decided that the young widow would be married off to her husband's brother and try once more, except she wouldn't receive a second dowry, her wedding gift. Three months after my father passed away—a threemonth canonical period—my mother knelt obsequiously before a sheikh and watched as her father and second husband signed the contracts.

In time I was presented with five half siblings, none of whom I was particularly close to. Six children, one room, three narrow, lumpy mattresses on the floor; horizontal martial arts battles during the night, yawning bruised bodies in the morning.

My uncle-father was kind, if not particularly loving or affable. He paid little attention to his children, even less to me. I'm unable to recall much about him. I have no pictures of him, so in my memory his face is always obscured. In every evocation of a childhood scene, my stepfather's face is the least detailed, the most out of focus; when I think of him my memory's eyes have cataracts.

His sole remarkable trait was his unremitting passing of gas, which he had no inclination to control. Lunches and dinners, as the family sat on the floor surrounding him, were unbearable. The boys loved it, but I could barely eat after he broke wind. That's probably why I've been skinny all my life. To this day, there are certain human smells that make my stomach swirl.

At his deathbed, on a night drunk with cicadas, as the family sat in his room, he called on each of his children to offer final wisdom, but he forgot to call on his youngest daughter or me. The youngest was devastated, and all tried to comfort her. They surrounded her, cooed to her, smothered her with mollifying maxims, passed her their handkerchiefs. I wasn't distressed and none comforted me. No one passed me a handkerchief, not even a tissue. He had no wisdom to offer me; no one in my family did.

I am my family's appendix, its unnecessary appendage.

I was married off at sixteen, plucked unripe out of school, the only home I had, and gifted to the first unsuitable suitor to appear at our door, a man small in stature and spirit. Marriage is a most disagreeable institution for an adolescent. We moved into this apartment and it took fewer than four years for him to stand before me, as the law required, and declaim the most invigorating of phrases: "You are divorced." Nothing in our marriage became him like leaving it.

The impotent insect stepped out the door, and these floors never had to feel his feet again. Young as I was, I shed not a tear. I did what my nature demanded. I cleaned and scrubbed and mopped and disinfected until no trace of him remained, no scent, not a single hair, not a touch. I removed the nails on the wall where he used to hang his dirty hat and his pungent pipes that he thought made him distinguished. With a needle and spool of thread I repaired every hole in the doilies singed by the cinders of his pipe. I soaked the mosquito net in bleach.

  • 1
  • 2

Excerpted from An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine. Copyright © 2014 by Rabih Alameddine. Excerpted by permission of Grove Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Lebanon's Civil War

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Southernmost
    by Silas House
    Southernmost opens with a devastating flood in Cumberland Valley, Tennessee. Could it be divine ...
  • Book Jacket: Fake Like Me
    Fake Like Me
    by Barbara Bourland
    After years of trying to make it as a painter in New York City, the unnamed narrator of Fake Like Me...
  • Book Jacket: Hungry
    Hungry
    by Jeff Gordinier
    Noma, René Redzepi's restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark, has widely been considered among the ...
  • Book Jacket: With the Fire on High
    With the Fire on High
    by Elizabeth Acevedo
    From Like Water for Chocolate to Ratatouille, writers have recognized the power ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt
    by Andrea Bobotis

    A thoughtful and quintessentially Southern debut that unfolds like a magnolia.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Beirut Hellfire Society
    by Rawi Hage

    A searing and visionary novel set in 1970s Beirut that asks what it means to live through war.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
The Guest Book
by Sarah Blake

"An American epic in the truest sense…"
Entertainment Weekly

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win In the Full Light of the Sun

New from Clare Clark!

"Evocative prose and excellent pacing make this fine historical a must-read for art history buffs."
- Publishers Weekly

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A A A Day K T D A

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.