The Night Counter (Paperback)
"An immigrant-ethnic cocktail laced with political oppression, but before shaking, Alia Yunis] adds Scheherazade, the fabled storyteller who kept herself alive by distracting her tyrannical husband for a thousand and one nights." --Carolyn See, Washington Post
After 85 years, Fatima knows that she is dying because for the last 991 days she has been visited by the immortal storyteller from The Arabian Nights, Scheherazade. Just as Scheherazade spun magical stories for 1,001 nights to save her own life, Fatima has spent each night telling Scheherazade her life stories. But with only nine days left before her death, Fatima has a few loose ends to tie up. She must find a wife for her openly gay grandson, teach Arabic (and birth control) to her 17-year-old great-granddaughter, make amends with her estranged husband, and decide which of her troublesome children should inherit her family's home in Lebanon--a house she herself has not seen in nearly 70 years. Fatima's children are spread far apart and are wrapped up in their own chaotic lives seemingly disinterested in their mother and their inheritances. But as she weaves stories of her husband, children, and grandchildren, Fatima brings together a family that is both capricious and steadfast, affectionate and also smothering, connected yet terribly alone. Taken all together, they present a striking and surprising tapestry of modern Arab American life. Shifting between America and Lebanon over the last hundred years, Alia Yunis crafts a bewitching debut novel imbued with great humanity, imagination, family drama and a touch of magic realism. Be prepared to feel utterly charmed.
About the Author
ALIA YUNIS is a filmmaker, screenwriter, author and journalist. Her writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Aramco World, and Saveur, among others. She has also been published in numerous anthologies, featuring both fiction and non-fiction. A PEN Emerging Voices fellow, The Night Counter is her first novel.
"Wonderfully imaginative…poignant, hilarious…The branches of this family tree support four generations of achievement, assimilation, disappointment, and dysfunction…Their stories form an affectionate, amusing, intensely human portrait of one family."
"The Abdullahs are anything but a Norman Rockwell painting, but in their own way, they are a very typical American family. They may have their differences but they also have their stories. And, as Scheherazade points out, in the end, that's what holds a family (much like a nation) together."
–Christian Science Monitor
"THE NIGHT COUNTER, Alia Yunis' first novel, mixes equal parts of magical realism, social commentary, family drama and lighthearted humor to create a delicious and intriguing indulgence worth savoring."
–Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Yunis, a Chicago-born professor living in Abu Dhabi, weaves a colorful tapestry…rich in character and spirit."
"Little pigs and lost siblings make for decent bedtime story fodder. But the life and times of Fatima Abdullah, the madcap matriarch of Alia Yunis's charming debut, THE NIGHT COUNTER, is even better."
"In this captivating debut, Yunis takes readers on a magic carpet ride….[A] sometimes serious, sometimes funny, but always touching tale of a Middle Eastern family putting down deep roots on U.S. soil."
"Yunis' book club-ready debut uses The Arabian Nights as a departure point for an immigrant-assimilation story....Emotionally rewarding reading that builds to a poignant and thoroughly satisfying climax."
–Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Yunis' debut is a magical, whimsical read with plenty of humor and heart."
"A vibrant, moving story that blurs the boundaries of dream and reality, past and present, innocence and wisdom."
–Laila Lalami, author of Secret Son
"An enchanting debut that winks and glitters like the bangles that line Scheherazade's arms. THE NIGHT COUNTER is funny, sly, charming, delicious, madcap -- and a gorgeous celebration of the way stories weave and shape our lives."
–Carolyn Turgeon, author of Godmother
"A gracefully-written multi-generational tale--warm, wise, and often funny--that reveals the inevitable illusions that push families apart, and hold them together."
–Will North, author of Water, Stone, Heart and The Long Walk Home