Mother of Strangers: A Novel

Written by:
Suad Amiry
Narrated by:
Amin El Gamal , Lameece Issaq

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
August 2022
7 hours 50 minutes
A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR from NPR  • Set in Jaffa in between 1947 and 1951, this “fable-like historical novel of young love ... darkly humorous and touching” (Oprah Daily) is based on a true story during the beginning of the destruction of Palestine and displacement of its people.

Based on the true story of two Jaffa teenagers, Mother of Strangers follows the daily lives of Subhi, a fifteen-year-old mechanic, and Shams, the thirteen-year-old student he hopes to marry one day. In this prosperous and cosmopolitan port city, with its bustling markets, cinemas, and cafés on the hills overlooking the Mediter­ranean Sea, we meet many other unforgettable charac­ters as well, including Khawaja Michael, the elegant and successful owner of orange groves above the harbor; Mr. Hassan, the tailor who makes Subhi’s treasured English suit, which he hopes will change his life; and the very mischievous and outrageous Uncle Habeeb, who insists on introducing Subhi to the local bordello.
With a thriving orange export business, Jaffa had always been a city welcoming to outsiders—the “Mother of Strangers”—where Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived peacefully together. Once the bombardment of the city begins in April 1948, Suad Amiry gives us the grim but fascinating details of the shock, panic, and destruc­tion that ensues. Jaffa becomes unrecognizable, with neighborhoods flattened, families removed from their homes and separated, and those who remain in constant danger of arrest and incarceration. Most of the popula­tion flees eastward to Jordan or by sea to Lebanon in the north or to Egypt and Gaza in the south. Subhi and Shams will never see each other again.
Suad Amiry has written a vivid and devastating ac­count of a seminal moment in the history of the Middle East—the beginning of the end of Palestine and a por­trait of a city irrevocably changed.
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James C.

I was disappointed to find out (from the other review) that the pronunciation was incorrect, but as I am purely an English speaker, I did not notice problems with pronunciation. I thought the narrators did a decent job otherwise. I enjoyed the story. I was expecting something dry and uncomfortable given the difficult subject matter, but the characters were interesting and relatable, and the darkness of some of the story was not overwhelming.

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Zeina Al Masri

As a Palestinian, the narration ruined the whole novel for me, I couldn’t get past 2.5 hours of the book, it just killed it . A story about a Palestinians’ account of the city of Jaffa and their struggle should atleast be read by a person who can properly pronounce Arabic letters, and is acquainted with the Palestinian cities to be able to pronounce them properly. Even popular slang language and popular Arabic sayings where pronounced incorrectly ruining the whole experience of reading a story that reminds us of our culture, our heritage and our grandparents. It was like a foreigner just reading Arabic words written in English. I don’t understand why the writer couldn’t find a fluent bilingual person to narrate the story. I reallly enjoyed listening to Against A Loveless World, what a story and amazing narration. This is what drove me to download Mother of Strangers, unfortunately I didn’t get the same experience and so stopped mid way.

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