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Reviewed by Maria Beltran for Readers' Favorite
Motorbikes and Camels by Nejoud Al-Yagout is a revealing piece of literary fiction set in Kuwait, in the Middle East, a rich and modern country located in a region that's known for its sharp inclination to religious dogma. In this book, we are introduced to various male and female characters chafing under the extraordinary strains of their culture and what family and community expect from them. We get to know Salma, a privileged young woman who finds herself in an unhappy and empty marriage. Khaled, a clumsy young man, falls in love with Saadia, a beautiful girl that lives on the wrong side of the city. We also get to know couples Bader and Maha, and Aisha and Hussam. The lives of these characters and a host of others sometimes intertwine and they are all part of a community that is both privileged and claustrophobic.
Nejoud Al-Yagout is, without a doubt, a daring and honest writer, and Motorbikes and Camels is a masterpiece. And being a Kuwaiti herself, she brings to life a number of interesting characters that may seem extraordinary to outsiders, but are real and palpable in the world they inhabit. What makes this novel extraordinary is that it brings to the literary table a unique voice that is seldom heard. With topics like homosexuality, virginity, double standards, discrimination and other difficult truths, in the midst of a dogma known for its intolerance, Motorbikes and Camels is definitely a thought provoking eye opener. And as author Al-Yagout relates each of these stories and intricately weaves them together, she reveals not only the innermost feelings of her characters but the soul of the community itself!