After The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini that I read last year, I stumbled upon Sweetness in The Belly by Camilla Gibb. And I was emotionally spent after reading it.
It is indeed a beautifully crafted novel. Sweetness in the Belly transcends the boundaries that are defined by the propaganda makers that pit Islam and the West against one another. This is a profound novel, exploring themes of female circumcision, politics, war, tribalism, yet it is also an exquisite homage to Islam. Some of the most beautiful passages are about Lily's (the protagonist) faith. Islam is her guiding force, as she seeks to discover the true meaning of jihad, "The holy war we have within ourselves ... Our internal struggle for purity".
"Sweetness in the Belly is one of those near-perfect fictions: a sustained flight of imagination backed up by firsthand experience, with a sympathetic but alluringly outré central character and a teeming, colourful supporting cast. That it concerns East African Muslims, both at home in Ethiopia and in exile in London, only adds timeliness to a book that’s already brimming over with an irresistible plot and great social significance… Readers are likely to emerge from its pages feeling bruised but hopeful, and better informed about both Islam and émigrés everywhere." Georgia Straight
A must read.