Shortlisted for the International Prize of Arabic Fiction
Surviving a cold childhood, overshadowed by her parents' unhappiness and their distant relationship to her, Sahar expects to escape through marriage when she meets the compelling and charming Sami, who is interested in every detail of her life. But what seemed at first to be his loving interest rapidly becomes controlling and ultimately abusive. Sahar yearns for a way out of her intertwined experiences of loss and loneliness.
In All the Women Inside Me
, Jana Elhassan presents an intricate psychological portrait of a woman, as well as the complexities of interpersonal relationships. The novel's innovative structure allows it to plumb psychological and philosophical depths beyond the specific characters revealing a profound humanity. Sahar's father is the lapsed leftist who masks his boredom by busying himself with great causes. Her depressed mother's nerves are as delicate as the crystal she keeps immaculately polished in her home. A charlatan sheikh trades in religious magic, making a profit off of people's misery. A boyfriend leaves his great love to marry a "more appropriate" good girl.
Sahar navigates her way through so many relationships, ill-prepared by her parents and unhappy childhood home. Her imagination is what allows her to act out all of the desires she has been denied throughout her whole life, from her childhood to her abusive marriage. But she also finds solace in her best friend, Hala, who has faced her own difficult childhood and adolescence and later a series of destructive relationships. At the same time that this novel is able to capture the intensity of emotions and experiences in women's lives, it is not merely a story about the power of imagination to enrich the lives of oppressed women. Elhassan's novel is a stark appraisal of how far women are pushed and the length to which women will go to escape a reality that is rotten at the core.