Monday, October 22, 2012

Evel Knievel Days

By Pauls Toutonghi
Crown Publishers (Random House), 293 pgs
Submitted by Random House
Rating: 3.5

"Egyptian cooking is folk magic. Not magic in the sense of dematerializing doves or sawing beautiful ladies in half. But magic in the deeper sense of the thing - in the raw joy of what magic once was, hundreds of years ago, thousands of years ago: a surprise, a shock, an astonishment. A lesson about the invisible. A lesson about belief." So begins chapter one.

Khosi Saqr has lived all of his 23 years in Butte, Montana. He was raised by his intermittently emotionally stable mother after his Egyptian father fled to Egypt with a Las Vegas loan shark at his heels. Khosi is an introvert with a few compulsions of his own. His father reappears after many years of no contact, requesting a divorce and then vanishing as quickly as he appeared, and the love of Khosi's young life announces she will marry someone else, so Khosi decamps for Egypt in search of his father, family, culture and connection; looking for the place where he might belong.

As it turned out, finding his father was the easy part. The more difficult parts include: second wives, aunts, grandmothers, terrorists, polo ponies, theft of antiquities, more loan sharks, yellow fever and the sudden arrival of his mother in the middle of all of this. Somehow all of this mess is sorted through and put in their places. And so is Khosi. He finds what he was looking for: identity. Even if it didn't find it in the way he thought he would or the place where he thought it would be.

Pauls Toutonghi won the Pushcart Prize for the novel Red Weather. He teaches at Lewis & Clark College in  Portland, Oregon. For more please see: PAULSTOUTONGHI.WORDPRESS.COM

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