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Reviews of Ghost Season by Fatin Abbas

Ghost Season

A Novel

by Fatin Abbas

Ghost Season by Fatin Abbas X
Ghost Season by Fatin Abbas
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  • Published:
    Jan 2023, 320 pages

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Book Summary

A dynamic, beautifully orchestrated debut novel connecting five characters caught in the crosshairs of conflict on the Sudanese border.

A mysterious burnt corpse appears one morning in Saraaya, a remote border town between northern and southern Sudan. For five strangers on an NGO compound, the discovery foreshadows trouble to come. South Sudanese translator William connects the corpse to the sudden disappearance of cook Layla, a northern nomad with whom he's fallen in love. Meanwhile, Sudanese American filmmaker Dena struggles to connect to her unfamiliar homeland, and white midwestern aid worker Alex finds his plans thwarted by a changing climate and looming civil war. Dancing between the adults is Mustafa, a clever, endearing twelve-year-old, whose schemes to rise out of poverty set off cataclysmic events on the compound.

Amid the paradoxes of identity, art, humanitarian aid, and a territory riven by conflict, William, Layla, Dena, Alex, and Mustafa must forge bonds stronger than blood or identity. Weaving a sweeping history of the breakup of Sudan into the lives of these captivating characters, Fatin Abbas explores the porous and perilous nature of borders―whether they be national, ethnic, or religious―and the profound consequences for those who cross them. Ghost Season is a gripping, vivid debut that announces Abbas as a powerful new voice in fiction.

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Reviews

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Unsurprisingly given the setting, this is an intense read, with much challenging content. It isn't unrelenting, as there are also lovely portrayals of kindness and care, and much of the writing itself is really beautiful — I more than once found myself going back to read a sentence or phrase several times for the sheer enjoyment of the author's language, especially word choices (Susan B). For some reason, I procrastinated in reading this book. Perhaps it was because I feared the setting in Sudan would be grim and poverty stricken. Indeed, the residents of Saraaya live a life most of us would find difficult to endure. However, Fatin Abbas has created some of the most vivid and realistic characters I have encountered in years. Just as the filmmaker, Dena, carefully frames her photos to present the picture she wants, Abbas sketches her characters to perfection. What a welcome treat! (Gail H)...continued

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(Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Media Reviews

New York Times
The prose can be expository at times, but the stories of civilians in the grip of uncertainty make for a haunting account and a daring debut.

Library Journal
A debut novel plumbing the fraught issues of humanitarian aid, divided identity, and internecine conflict.

Publishers Weekly
Abbas skillfully navigates boundaries between the disparate players and builds a fine drama out of their negotiations and bonds. Readers will be captivated by this immersive novel.

Author Blurb Claire Messud, New York Times best-selling author of The Burning Girl
Immersive and astonishing, Ghost Season brings alive with brilliant specificity the South Sudanese border town of Saraaya, and an unforgettable cast of characters linked by circumstance and fate. Fatin Abbas is a remarkable writer, and this novel an extraordinary debut.

Author Blurb Dave Eggers, author of The Every and What Is the What 
Utterly mesmerizing, and a brilliant depiction of the blurry psychological and physical borders that divide Sudan and South Sudan. An extremely promising and important first novel.

Author Blurb Maaza Mengiste, Booker Prize–shortlisted author of The Shadow King
Ghost Season travels that narrow road between austere and gut-wrenching, and does it with incomparable grace. From the first words of this gorgeous novel to the last, Fatin Abbas holds us spellbound, immersed in the lives and the world that unfold in its pages. Beyond the debris of war and displacement, she reminds us, rests something else that can never be truly extinguished: hope.

Reader Reviews

Sharon J. (Raleigh, NC)

Ghost Season
Ghost Season is the story of five characters that live at an NGO compound in South Sudan in 2001, including several Sudanese, an American map maker, and a Sudanese American filmmaker. As a civil war is coming closer to their small village of Saraaya,...   Read More
Susan B. (Memphis, MO)

intense, challenging, excellent read
This was a rough one for me, content-wise, but certainly worth reading in my opinion. Unsurprisingly given the setting (civil war in Sudan), this was an intense read, with much challenging content. I learned a lot about the cultures written about, ...   Read More
Barbara O. (Red Bank, NJ)

What a Read!
Remember her name, Fatin Abbas. "Ghost Season" is her debut novel but I anticipate more stories to follow. I could visualize Saraaya, smell the dust, hear the noise of the crowded marketplace and imagine the people. Fatin Abbas's five main characters...   Read More
Lucy S. (Ann Arbor, MI)

What a debut!
I was awed by this debut novel. Abbas' beautiful, descriptive writing plus the viewpoint of five characters made for such an immersive reading experience. This history is so recent and important, and yet I have come across very few novels that ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The First and Second Sudanese Civil Wars

Generals of South Sudan, seated together in uniform, celebrating independence Ghost Season by Fatin Abbas takes place in an NGO (non-government organization) facility in Saraaya, a town close to the border between northern and southern Sudan, during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005), which was essentially a continuation of the First Sudanese Civil War (1955-1972). While there were multiple complex factors behind both wars, the conflicts that sparked them had roots in historical clashes between people living in rural areas and governmental powers, as well as British colonization in the region.

In the 1890s, the British invaded the area that is now Sudan and South Sudan, and split it into northern and southern provinces to be governed separately. The northern part was considered to be similar to Arab ...

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