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Shelf Awareness: "Amara Lakhous's frothy soap opera tap-dances its way over touchy prejudices to create an international commedia for the age of terrorism, laced with tributes to Federico Fellini, Vittorio De Sica, Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni."

Date: May 11 2012

Amara Lakhous, the author of Clash of Civilizations over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio, has written another Roman comedy, Divorce Islamic Style, with a similar cast of immigrant characters in a neighborhood of "the Italy of the future," crowded with illegal Africans and Arabs.

Christian Mazzari, a young Sicilian who speaks perfect Arabic, has been hired by the Italian secret service to pose as "a young Tunisian immigrant in search of his fortune." Terrorists have imported 50 kilos of the explosive Goma-2 Eco into Rome, and it's been traced to a neighborhood call center named Little Cairo. Christian has been given a new identity as Issa.

The story unfolds in alternating first-person narratives. Although Christian/Issa is charming, it's Muslim housewife Safia who steals the show. Her humorous candor is illuminating, as she defends a religion she believes in while struggling with its strictures on women. A few days before her wedding, her fiancé surprised her by asking her to wear the veil. When outraged Safia refused, his family threatened to ruin her reputation by saying she wasn't a virgin. To her own surprise, Safia comes to accept and ultimately defend the veil as her right. Watching the two narratives intersect is half the fun.

Amara Lakhous's frothy soap opera tap-dances its way over touchy prejudices to create an international commedia for the age of terrorism, laced with tributes to Federico Fellini, Vittorio De Sica, Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni--a heartwarming tale of immigrants in collision served up with Italian gusto.

by Nick DiMartino, University Book Store, Seattle

Discover: An Italian spy and an unhappily married Muslim woman cross paths in an immigrant Roman community.

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