Sunday, November 18, 2012

Book Review: Sipping From the Nile

Sipping From the Nile: My Exodus from Egypt by Jean Naggar

As you've probably come to know, I like a good memoir. Oh sure, I like a good fantasy, but I really want to know what other people's real life is all about. At first glance when I read these memoirs, I always think these people's lives are so much more fun, exciting, or tragic than mine. And then I realize mine could be too if I wrote it down in just the right way.

It reminds me that these stories are still a bit of fantasy... and Sipping from the Nile felt like no life I would ever have... but that's sort of why I bought it in the first place. The author, Jean Nagger, grew up in Egypt, but has spent most of her life in America after essentially being kicked out of Egypt after the 1956 Suez Crisis.

The book reads, at first, like the author did an ancestry search and needs to fill us in on all the details of the various people in her family and the family that came before. Eventually, once we feel that we know who everyone is, we get to the center of the story... being told they need to leave their country and much of what they own behind. The author expresses the negative emotions related to this, but the overall message was much lighter, the transition seemed much less devastating than I would have imagined. I wondered if time had lessened her angry memories or if that's the way they all really handled the situation... you know, because people were much more proper and reserved in the '50's. : )

I enjoyed the book, but I often felt each sentence was so descriptive that at times I was a little exhausted by the thought of all that was put into each sentence. I also didn't really identify with the book. Does that make a book bad? No way, but it made it harder for me, personally, to be invested in the book. I grew up in a blue collar family and while we were financially secure, it was because my dad was a penny pincher extraordinaire. I certainly did not come from a family of means, and I didn't face the upheaval her family did. I can't imagine being kicked out of your country for who you are and losing much of what you owned.

The author does demonstrate that people can pick, up and move on after tragic events, but some things will never be the same. Even though her family is spread across Europe and America she stays connected by observing their family traditions and cooking family recipes... things that I often take for granted. If anything, with the holidays coming up, this story has made me more mindful of those special traditions my family has. Our traditional food isn't as labor intensive as many of her family's recipes are, but that doesn't mean I don't love a good Taco layer dip any less.

Grade: B

Books read since the beginning of 2012: 24

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