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Empathy is overrated," says an unnamed writer in The Wrong End of the Telescope as the writer despairs about his novel-in-progress, a book based on his experiences in Lesbos, Greece, where he attempted to aid Syrian refugees but instead "turned into a mess", holing up in his hotel room for days on end. The stories are told from the point of view of the unnamed writer's Lebanese friend, Mina Simpson. When Mina discovers her friend Emma, another doctor, is in Lesbos helping with the refugee crisis, she takes a week off and heads there to assist. A trans doctor living in the US. Mina hasn't been anywhere near her home country of Lebanon in three decades.
These refugee stories are plain, unflinching and deeply observed, without being sentimental or cloying. The stories don't so much switch between emotional registers as occupy all of them at once - humor, grief, anger, melancholy, love of every stripe. Mina is a wise, quiet and perceptive woman, and her keen observations give the novel dynamism and life.

Additional Information:

  • Author: Rabih Alameddine
  • Published September 2021
  • 358 ages, hardcover
  • 8.3 x 5.5 inches
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