Slow Burn | BookishFirst

Slow Burn

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Alternating between a young woman in the first blushes of love (both with a man and performing) and her transition to wife and mother, and her three children as adults, The Arsonists' City weaves together a family through the cultures, war, secrets and desperation that drive them apart and together. Mazna is a young actress in Syria when she meets Idris and then Zakaria through the director of her theater in Damascus. Making secretive trips to Beirut, Mazna falls hard for Zakaria even though Idris is already in love with her, culminating in tragedy and a move to America for a fresh start. The story alternates between this storyline and Mazna's adult children being wheedled into going to Beirut (or in the case of the youngest, Najla, who's already there) when their father decides he wants to sell his family home. Ava, the oldest, didn't want to go because she's having marital problems with her husband. Mimi is in the middle of realizing that what he thinks is his passion may not be the thing that he's best at, and Naj is dealing with hiding the fact that she's a lesbian from most of her family just as the woman she loved in college reenters her life. Naturally fireworks result, and conflicts resolve, but quite possibly the best part of the story is learning the reasons why Mazna is so difficult for her children to deal with. I can't say that it really entirely makes me like her better by the end of the novel, but it provides a lot of context and shows how many of her dreams she gave up willingly (or otherwise) for other people around her.