Guapa by Saleem Haddad (2016)
I'm thinking about this book and my frustrating experience reading it,
and it's difficult for me to shape a review for it. I guess I'll just
Saleem Haddad is very skilled in
painting a scene's setting. My brain had no trouble filling in the
details as Haddad provided everything necessary while never getting
boring in his descriptions. In slums, checkpoints, fancy hotels,
apartments, dorm rooms, campuses, diners, bars...I never once had
trouble, and I have extreme respect for this skill.
sensual scenes between Rasa and Taymour were just lovely, leaving me
wanting more. I mean seriously, but enough said there.
So what we
have in Guapa is a story of injustices, power struggles between people,
intolerance, governmental abuses, family tragedy, and the confusion of
growing up different.
A very worthy endeavor.
a journey in Rasa's mind, a journey in which he philosophizes and rages
(though also illuminates with some very nice anecdotes throughout). At
times, at least for me, I need to retrace steps to remember where the
novel was in its present-time, which wasn't a problem, but it's also not
ideal in the flow of reading to be right at a crucial point of action
or dialogue but first get moved into another flashback. Lots of good
material in the flashbacks but the execution felt messy and even
By the end I was quite weary of an endless
parade of one-dimensional characters who served as examples of the types
of attitudes Rasa encounters in his living. One horrible person after
another, often delivering a self-righteous speech with very little
context to trigger it. Many unresolved threads (Like I said, the book
was frustrating for me) and a melodramatic, unsatisfying ending.
Saleem Haddad is an incredibly strong writer, and I'm hoping his follow-up is more successful than Guapa.
With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC of this book.