Assadi, Hannah Lillith. “Sonora”, Soho Press, 2017.
Two Young Friends
Ahlam is the daughter of a Palestinian refugee and his Israeli wife who grows up in the arid lands of desert suburbia outside of Phoenix. It is a place where coyotes prowl and mysterious lights are sometimes seen in the sky at night and this is fodder for Ahlam’s imagination reigns. She has chronic fever dreams and feels isolated. When she meets her Laura, the two begin a friendship and experiment with drugs, sex and boys, and they helplessly watch several of their classmates succumb mysterious deaths.
The girls leave their pasts for New York City, but as their emotional bond heightens, the intensity of their lives becomes unbearable. As they search for love, happiness and belonging, Ahlam and Laura’s attempts to forget their pasts could ruin them forever.
Here is a novel written in lyrical prose and, from what I understand, reminiscent of author Hannah Lillith Assadi’s own life. When the girls are still teens, they meet an older man named Dylan, an artist who lives in New York City and they head east to start living with him as soon as they’ve graduated from high school. The desert is replaced by the bright lights of New York and the city fills them with liberating anonymity and hard drugs.
Assadi has created these characters outside of rigid stereotypes. They are tender and protective, self-involved and reckless. Ahlam, who narrates the story seems to be in a constant state of dissociation and she sees things as outside if her own realm and power. Something is missing in the make-up of the characters, however, and I am not convinced of their vulnerability. Language-wise this is a beautiful read, but character-wise keeps me wondering,