Monday, November 3, 2008

a review of "A Thousand Veils" and a GIVEAWAY!


A Thousand Veils by D.J. Murphy

Fatima Shihabi was raised by a loving father and family, a self described 'child of the desert', in an isolated rural town in Iraq. She learned from her oldest brother, Omar, a love of language, as he would read endless passages from the Koran to her, telling her that “You must lose yourself in these cadences, Fatima, the exquisiteness of these lines. There's no greater beauty in the world.” Fatima felt a need from her earliest days to express her experiences of the world, in stories and ultimately in her poetry, and her experiences about what Omar would call the “Others”.
”A writer has to mirror the concerns of ordinary people” he told her. “Force humanity to look itself in the face, so that maybe, on day, one glorious day, it may decide to tidy itself up, make itself right.”
It would be these two things, her love of writing and poetry and her need to champion the cause of others, especially women and children under the regime of Saddam Hussein, that would bracket her life.

Her poetry, written in secret, would strengthen her enough to save her life and her mind when she was given in marriage to an older man, who abused her both mentally and physically. From her adolescence, she followed the wishes of her father and then her husband to wear the veil, the long black traditional abayah.
“ Long before her adolescence was over, she came to perceive the subtle irony of draping a black cloth over a sentient being whose very identity was associated with self-expression. After all, it was not simply to hold a mirror to humanity that she wrote, but to change it, if only by degrees. Thus, having accepted the veil, she soon resolved to renounce it, at least in spirit, and reinvigorated her efforts to observe and engage the Others...She could hardly reconcile her soaring imagination with the physical confines of a black cloth.”

It was that imagination and that engagement of the Others that would be the source of her conflict with the Hussein government. After she was divorced by her husband, for bearing a daughter rather than a son, one of her brothers in Baghdad got her a job writing for the most influential newspaper in Iraq, about issues concerning woman and children. She was well aware of the dangers of even the slightest criticism of the government. Everyone knew of people who were taken to prison, with no charges, and horribly tortured and some who simply disappeared, presumed killed by Hussein's secret police. She was careful, but not careful enough and in time was arrested and sent to the infamous Al Khatabi Prison. After three months of torture, her brother was able to get her released but she knew that next time, imprisonment would mean her death.

But the situation in Iraq, after 9-11, with UN sanctions in place, was getting worse and worse, limited resources going to the most powerful and leaving little for hospitals or schools, children suffering the most, and Fatima could not totally silence her voice. She became involved with an underground group that had some of her articles published oversees and she was always ready for the call that would mean that she was to be arrested again and killed and that she must flee the country. When the call comes, she leaves her daughter in the relative safety of her brother Abdeljelil's house and makes it across the desert to Saudi Arabia. And it is there that her real adventure begins. No country will give her refuge and she will be returned to Iraq and her certain death if she can not find help.

Help comes in the person of a Wall Street lawyer named Charles Sherman, persuaded by his law partner Art and by Fatima's brother Omar, now an American professor, to take on her case. Charles is a man with his own ghosts, having narrowly escaped death in the World Trade Center, his mind seared with the horrible images of that day. He is a very rich and powerful and successful man, but one who comes to realize that he has chosen to wear his own veils from the world. His encounters with Fatima and her family and their experiences together will leave him a changed man, in many ways.

A Thousand Veils is an excellent book, certainly one of the most enjoyable and most thought provoking ones that I have read this year. It is many things...the personal stories of Fatima and Charles, their friendship and growing affection for each other. It is a discussion of some of the cultural and ideological differences between the Arab world and the West, a story about politics and world we live in. It is a thriller, with Hussein's secret police racing across Paris and the Alps and people fleeing across the desert with helicopters in pursuit. But ultimately, perhaps, it is a story mostly about love and family and to what lengths we will go to protect them, and it is a story about friends and how those friendships can change us all into better people. How individuals can come to better under this complex world and how individuals can
make a difference in the world.

This is Mr. Murphy first novel, and one based, he says, to some degree on a true story. And a wonderful story it is. The characters, both the major characters of Charles and Fatima and the many minor characters, like Charles' girlfriend Sarah, his law partner Art, Fatima's brothers Omar and Abdeljelil and her daughter Latifa, are all well developed and realistically portrayed. The plot is tight and logical and moves at a good pace; the description of the various locations, from NYC to Paris to the prisons of Iraq, clearly painted. It is a well told and moving story.

This is the sort of book that you just can not put down. This is the rare sort of book that I looked forward to having time to pick up to read again and one that I was sad to see draw to a conclusion. A well rounded, satisfying conclusion...but I was sad nevertheless. A book that I can give a strong recommendation to.

I am very thankful to Mr. Murphy for sending me a copy of his excellent book to read and review and therefore I will fulfill his wishes to pass the book on, as he requested, to someone else who will read and review it as well. I must say that I do rather hate to give it away...well, I guess I will have to just buy another copy perhaps....but a promise is a promise. ;-)
And I know that whoever receives it will get a very good book.
So, if you are interesting in winning a copy of A Thousand Veils, in my very first ever book giveaway, just post a comment here, with a link to your blog or some other sort of contact info. If you link back to the review and contest on your blog, you will get a second entry. Shipping to US or Canada only please. As part of the Book Giveaway Carnival over at Bookroom Reviews, I will pick the winner at random from those posted by midnight Saturday, 11/08, and post the name of the winner on Sunday.

Good luck and take a minute to enter...I think that you will love this book!

**An Update** You know, as I thought about this book and read your many comments expressing an interest in it, I decided something. First of all, I didn't want to give up my copy, because I want to share it with some family and friends. And I just want to keep it. :-)
So, I have purchase TWO brand new copies and will give both of them away to TWO lucky winners. So you have doubled your chance of winning. Or I did. It's a win, win, win situation.


72 comments:

  1. Please include me in your drawing - I've heard that this is a great book - and you liked it, so I'd love to read/review it!

    :) Wendi
    wbarker (at) hotmail.com

    I'm giving away 10+ books to 4+ winners! To enter
    click here!

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  2. I would love to have a copy of this book. I've heard good things about it. Thanks.

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  3. Don't enter me - I have the book. I'm skimmed your review because I didn't want to ruin anything, but I'm glad to see it's so good.

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  4. Sounds very interesting, please enter me. I've also posted about the giveaway here.

    missporkchop AT yahoo DOT com

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  5. This book sounds like a definite must read! Please enter me into your contest.

    knittingmomof3 AT gmail DOT com

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  6. It sounds like a great book, please enter me in your first book giveaway (seems you're excited). My email address is rmsacks at hotmail dot com.

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  7. I'd love a chance to win!
    frog123 (at) cyipcom (dot) net

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  8. bermudaonion, it might seem that I gave away a bit in the review but I assure you that what I told is all in the beginning of the book and in fact pretty much all in the write up on the back of the book. No spoilers, really!

    And glad to see some entries...my nightmare would be not one...lol

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  9. I think I'd love this book too. I love fiction of other cultures and countries. Thanks for the chance.

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  10. This is the first I've heard of this book. With a review like that how could I not want a copy to read?

    Congrats on your first giveaway!

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  11. Oooh this book sounds good! I have never heard about it before thanks for the review!

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  12. Your review makes this a must read! Thanks for the chance to win.

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  13. I would love to win a copy of this book!
    akreese (at) hotmail (dot) com

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  14. Congrats on your first giveaway, hope it's fabulous! Also,Just wanted to stop by and say hi and thanks for participating in the carnival:)

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  15. def. want to read this..please enter me..thanks mrs.mommyyatgmaildotcom

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  16. This sounds fascinating. I'd love to read it! Please enter me in the contest.

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  17. Congrats on your first giveaway! The book sounds interesting. I'd love to be entered. Thanks!

    sj3girls AT hotmail DOT com

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  18. This sounds like a great book. I enjoyed your review and I'd love a chance to win and review it myself!

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  19. sounds really interesting, i would love to be entered!

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  20. Caite, your review is wonderful! Please enter me in the drawing and I am posting it on my blog
    kayespenguinposts.blogspot.com

    florida982002@yahoo dot com

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  21. I think that I have said it before, but it is easy for me to write a review of a book that I really enjoyed and want to share the good news about....and very hard to write a review of a book I did not like all that much and really don't think you, the reader, should waste their time or money on.

    Because writers are my rock stars, my movie stars and i want them all to write wonderful things!

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  22. Your review is great. Please add my name to the hat! Thanks and have a great day!

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  23. I have already read the book, but I just wanted to say what a excellent, insightful review you wrote. I clicked it as a "helpful review" on LibraryThing.

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  24. I'd love to read this. You wrote a very interesting and compelling review. Thanks for fulfilling your promise and offering a chance to win this book.
    geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

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  25. thank you knowwhatilike...I live for the praise. ;-q

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  26. Please enter me - thank you for the giveaway! Sounds very eye-opening.

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  27. This sounds interesting, please enter me.

    callista83 AT cogeco DOT ca

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  28. I've read about this book before and really want to read it. Sounds great. Thanks.

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  29. I'd love to read this. I enjoy learning more about other cultures through fiction.

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  30. I would love to be entered!

    Thank you for the giveaway!

    kerin0874 (at) yahoo (dot) com

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  31. I love learning more about other cultures through fiction. Thanks!

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  32. That sounds like a fascinating book and one that would make an interesting counterpoint to the insights I gained from reading Secret Believers.

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  33. Sounds like a fascinating story. One of the characters in my book is also named Fatima.

    Please enter me in the giveaway.
    timk at jtimothyking.com

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  34. I wasn't sure about this one when I saw the author's post on LT. I'll give it a shot now that someone has test=read it though.

    I've added your giveaway to my front page (sidebar).

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  35. And glad to see some entries...my nightmare would be not one...lol

    I forgot to mention that I have the same one

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  36. I would love to win this book! It is on my TBR.

    I blogged about your giveaway here:

    http://teddyrose.blogspot.com/2008/11/this-weeks-givaways-galore.html

    My email is teddyr66 (at)yahoo(dot)com

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  37. After reading your review, I am very interested to read this book. I like how it all boils down to family and friends. Thanks for the chance to win!

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  38. I would like to be entered in your book giveaway. Thank your for hosting. This sounda like a awesome book. I am also hosting my first book giveaway too at http://38thavedicareaders.blogspot.com.
    It just happened to co-inside with the carnival giveaway which is great.
    my email is bookmark 60 at hotmail dot com. Thanks again. good luck with your first one.

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  39. This book looks fascinating. Thanks for the giveaway, I would love to win this one! stonefox@pobox.com

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  40. Great review! Made me want to read the book, so please enter me! Congratulations on your first giveaway,

    Carey

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  41. I blogged about it here:

    http://athomewithbooks.blogspot.com/2008/11/weekly-giveaway-roundup-november-4.html

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  42. I'd like to read this book.
    -Terra
    partymix25(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  43. I'd love to win "A Thousand Veils" I'm hearing that it's a great book. Please enter me. Thanks!

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  44. I would love to read this book.

    Thank you!

    janetfaye (at) gmail (dot) com

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  45. Sound like a great book! Thanks for the chance

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  46. I'd like to read this, please enter me in your giveaway.

    WordLily AT gmail

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  47. This book sounds very interesting-I would love to add it to my collection!
    princessfdp@aol.com

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  48. This sounds so wonderful. Thanks for the giveaway.
    doot65{at}comcast[dot]net
    Elizabeth

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  49. The book sounds like it has a bit of everything it it! Strong characters,
    relationships and an air of mystery about it. Please enter me in your fabulous giveaway drawing. Many thanks, Cindi
    jchoppes[at]hotmail[dot]com

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  50. I've heard wonderful things about this book and I'm always on the look-out for a chance to broaden my horizons--and my library. Thanks for the entry!

    boldnessbe(at)gmail(dot)com

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  51. One of the best books I have ever read was called "At the Drop of A Veil" I would love to have a chance to read this book also. My husband is from the middle east and I live in between the life he grew up in, and the life here, that he has chosen. Sometimes the two don't mix like oil and water, even after 20 years.

    Thanks for sharing

    ceashark at aol dot com

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  52. What a great review! I am really looking forward to reading this one. I hope I can make time for it before the year is out.

    Don't enter me in the drawing as I've already got my own copy. You're so generous to offer two brand new copies to people!

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  53. After reading the "black veil" quote, I can understand why you wouldn't want to give up your copy. Thanks for buying two copies.

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  54. I hadn't heard of this one before, but now you have piqued my interest! lol Would love the chance to win a copy.

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  55. I'd love to read this book. I love books about other cultures. Please enter me, Thanks!

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  56. I would love to read this. I am studying women of the Middle East in school-it's a fascinating subject. Reading about these women really makes me appreciate our country!
    smchester at gmail dot com

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  57. This story offers more than a good read...there is the chance to learn about another culture and other peoples. Please count me in!

    dreamseeker52 AT gmail DOT com

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  58. I wasn't sure if I would be interested but after reading your review it sounds really good to me. Please include my name and I've added it to my blog. Thanks for your contest!

    www.wrightysreads.blogspot.com
    5wrights1@verizon.net

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  59. Gosh, I do hope that whoever gets the books will like it...lol

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  60. Oh it sounds really good, thanks for the chance.

    purehrt555(at)yahoo(dot)Com

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  61. i'm glad i stumbled across your blog. what an excellent book recommendation. Thanks so much for this great giveaway

    teechbiz at yahoo dot com

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  62. sounds really interesting csite after reading the review I need to know what happens. Please include me in your contest. cranky_fish@hotmail.com

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  63. people stumbling into my blog...people misspelling my name...(it's ok folks, I know said commenter and I am allowed to mock her)..remember, last day to have a chance to win.

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  64. It sounds good. Please, count me in.
    donna444444@yahoo.com

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  65. I'm entering! Thanks for the giveaway!

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  66. Pick Me! Pick Me! I would love to win a book.

    My husbands favorite author is Stephen King. I have two favorites: James Patterson and Mary Higgins Clark.

    I am currently reading WHAT YOUR 1ST GRADER NEEDS TO KNOW by E.D. HIRSCH



    It's very kind of you to offer such a great giveaway, its rare that I see giveaways for people like us (avid readers).


    Count me in too please.


    Thanks
    Tammy OHagan
    tammyohagan ~~~ AT ~~~ westco ~~~ DOT ~~~ net

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  67. Looks great! Thanks for the giveaway!

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