Since Craig Thompson‘s Habibi hit shelves last week (official release date was last Tuesday, September 20), I guess the secret of its magnificence is out … in some inexplicable fit of utter possessiveness, I’ve been holding on to the galley which arrived in June (and was consumed without pause upon receipt).
So awestruck am I that only clichéd phrases spurt forth: the sweeping sands of time (always wanted to use that one!), timeless love story, larger-than-life, epic journey. Indeed, Habibi is all that, but minus the babbling clichés. With gorgeous panes in constant flowing motion over almost 700 pages, Thompson creates a shocking, unforgettable original for sure.
Truly less is more here, so a few early details are all I will divulge (I don’t want to be responsible for ruining your personal discovery). At 9, a girl is sold in marriage to a much older man who teaches her to read and write, then witnesses his murder. Three years later, she’s living in an abandoned boat in the desert, mother to a little boy clearly not hers by birth. Their stories will eventually separate – and each will live through so much – and unexpectedly intertwine … and then repeat.
Thompson superbly weaves in the overlapping narratives of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity (subtle, yet effective reminders of a shared heritage that should unite, not divide), and the everyday power of storytelling, from bedtime tales to fanciful myths to lifesaving epics. He’s also got a few things to say about gender inequality, slavery and other examples of man’s inhumanity, and the cruelty of uncontrollable circumstances.
History, religion, sociology all effortlessly combined with a ‘larger-than-life epic journey of a timeless love story’ … oh … and all that ‘set amidst the sweeping sands of time.’ HA! Got to say that twice!
The secret is most definitely out: Habibi is not to be missed.