Summary and book reviews of The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon

The Confusion of Languages

by Siobhan Fallon

The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon
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  • Published:
    Jun 2017, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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Book Summary

A searing debut novel from the award-winning author of You Know When the Men are Gone, about jealousy, the unpredictable path of friendship, and the secrets kept in marriage, all set within the U.S. expat community of the Middle East during the rise of the Arab Spring.

Both Cassie Hugo and Margaret Brickshaw dutifully followed their soldier husbands to the U.S. embassy in Jordan, but that's about all the women have in common. After two years, Cassie's become an expert on the rules, but newly arrived Margaret sees only her chance to explore. So when a fender-bender sends Margaret to the local police station, Cassie reluctantly agrees to watch Margaret's toddler son. But as the hours pass, Cassie's boredom and frustration turn to fear: Why isn't Margaret answering her phone, and why is it taking so long to sort out a routine accident? Snooping around Margaret's apartment, Cassie begins to question not only her friend's whereabouts but also her own role in Margaret's disappearance.

With achingly honest prose and riveting characters, The Confusion of Languages plunges readers into a shattering collision between two women and two worlds, affirming Siobhan Fallon as a powerful voice in American fiction and a storyteller not to be missed.

Part One

3:00 p.m.

We are close, so close, to Margaret's apartment, and I feel myself sink deeper into the passenger seat, relieved that I have succeeded in my small mission of getting Margaret out of her home, if only for a few hours. The day is a success. Sure, I had to let her drive, something I usually avoid. Margaret is ­always too nervous, too chatty, looking around at the pedestrians, forgetting to put on her signal, stomping on the brakes too late. But today I actually managed to snap her out of her sadness. I have done everything a good friend should.

It's not until we reach the intersection at Horreyya and Hashimeyeen that I realize my mistake. I've misjudged the time, something I never do. Friday prayers have already let out. We'd stopped by the ceramics house to pick up a box of pottery I'd ordered and Margaret, being Margaret, sat down for too long with the hijab-ed women at their worktable, letting them touch Mather, pinching his cheeks and ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Discuss Fallon's portrayal of Amman and the Middle East. Were you surprised by any aspects of Jordanian culture? How is life in Amman different than life in the United States? How does life at the US embassy fit in between the two? Why do you think Fallon chose to write about Amman through the perspective of two Western women?
  2. The novel explores two marriages. How did you feel about Cassie and Dan in the beginning of the novel? Did you feel differently at the end? How does your understanding of Margaret's marriage change as we discover her diary?
  3. Cassie and Margaret are two very different women with two very distinct approaches to life overseas. Did you relate to one woman more than the other?
  4. What does it mean to be a good ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The Confusion of Languages is about collision — across boundaries and between cultures for sure, but it also showcases the clashes that can develop between people bound together by marriage, vocation or circumstance... It is a sharp and brilliant meditation on the steep costs of coloring outside the lines, especially in an environment where conforming to the norm demands the difficult task of walking between two very straight and narrow perimeters.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

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Media Reviews

The Washington Post

The Confusion of Languages explores friendships, parenting, and the civilian/military divide... The more we can shrink the yawning chasm between families’ experiences, the better for us all.

Kirkus Reviews

Page-turning and rich in detail, this is a solid, insightful debut

Booklist

Starred Review. An incisive examination of friendship and betrayal and a skillful mingling of cultural and domestic themes.

Author Blurb Phil Klay National Book Award winner and New York Times bestselling author of Redeployment
A gripping, cleverly plotted novel with surprising bite.

Author Blurb Sarah McCoy, New York Times and international bestselling author of The Mapmaker's Children
Mesmerizing and devastating ... two military wives must explore a modern-day, cultural labyrinth in this insatiable read.

Author Blurb David Abrams, award-winning author of Fobbit
Siobhan Fallon's novel has the irresistible force of a whirlpool: it sucks you in, pulling you ever closer to the mystery at the heart of the vortex ... The Confusion of Languages is intricately plotted, perfectly paced, and impossible to put down.

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Beyond the Book

Petra

PetraPetra, the ancient city that is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, features in The Confusion of Languages as one of the sights that Margaret longs to visit.

The remains of Petra, once a bustling city more than 2,000 years ago, were rediscovered in the early nineteenth century by a Swiss explorer, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. It is now an ongoing project for archaeological digs and is a UN World Heritage site. The city was inhabited by the Nabataeans - originally a nomadic tribe that settled in the region around the 6th century BCE - and was central on the trade route between East and West. According to the American Museum of Natural History, "Commercial traffic to and from Petra steadily increased from the first century BC to the mid-...

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