Official Review: The Elephant Tooth of '95 by Rana Baydoun

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ButterscotchCherrie
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Official Review: The Elephant Tooth of '95 by Rana Baydoun

Post by ButterscotchCherrie »

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "The Elephant Tooth of '95" by Rana Baydoun.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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Not only does Lebanon face many difficulties today, including the explosion in Beirut in August 2020, but it's also a country with a troubled though fascinating history. This is fully reflected in The Elephant Tooth of '95: A Story of Family, Romance, and New Beginnings by Rana Baydoun, which is mostly set in Beirut.

The novel essentially reads like a memoir as we follow the young protagonist Noor Beyrouti, a food science graduate, as she gets her first job as a company sales representative. To start with, she finds it difficult to make sales. Will she learn the knack from her coworker Toni, a handsome business graduate five years her senior? When Noor and Toni start dating, her sister Riwa is horrified because he has not asked her parents' permission. Will Toni prove to be "The One" despite this breach of gentlemanly conduct?

The accounts of relationships and marriages provided fascinating insights into Lebanese culture and customs. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about these from this book. There are many allusions to the country's complex and troubled history. There is a poignant moment when Noor describes a fig tree that was the only one left standing after the Syrian army requisitioned her grandparents' house during the Israeli invasion. All the other trees had been cut down for fuel. These historical details were sometimes sad, but many of Noor's anecdotes were funny.

Often, the two moods combined, for example, in the following passage: "Mom was drinking her Turkish coffee and smoking two cigarettes simultaneously. Uh oh, last time I saw her smoking two cigarettes in parallel was when we were obliged to leave our apartment during one of the civil war battles." (The Elephant Tooth of '95: A Story of Family, Romance, and New Beginnings by Rana Baydoun, p. 83.) Despite the drama, this turned out to be a light-hearted moment because the issue is a do-it-yourself project of Noor's father's. The mother was a wonderfully quirky character; this scene and others featuring her were among my favourites.

In line with the often humorous events, the style was light and straightforward. The author included "mood music" for each chapter in the form of a song. It might be good to add a Spotify playlist if the author doesn't plan to do so already. In general, I'd recommend a round of professional editing as I found many errors, mostly in the area of punctuation.

The errors were not overly distracting, but I also believe the ending could be improved. It seemed rushed; I would have liked more details. As these shortcomings compromised the book somewhat, my rating is three out of four stars. I can recommend it to fans of memoirs as well as to those who like realistic stories rich in historical and cultural detail. If you don't favour memoirs because of their tendency to meander, I can tell you that the anecdotes in this story are so intriguing and funny that you might appreciate this read anyway. There's a fun fact behind the title, for example. Times may sometimes be tough, but there are always new beginnings to be found.

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Miriam Molina
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Post by Miriam Molina »

I just read that only the tusks are made of ivory. The other elephant teeth are just like ours. I wonder what tooth the book refers to.

I can imagine Noor's mother smoking two cigarettes. I'm also curious about courting rituals in Lebanon.

Wonderful review, as usual!
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Post by amrinzaeda »

That sounds like a really interesting read! Since the US public education system barely touches on the history of the Middle East, I think this book would be a good start for me to learn about their culture through a non-American-biased lens. Thank you for your excellent review.
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Post by KristyKhem »

I really enjoy memoirs, especially those that include travel adventures and culture. This one sounds really enjoyable. Thanks for your review!
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Post by Joy Phill »

Realistic stories in cultural detail is my thing. I'll try to check this one out. Thanks for a concise review.
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Post by Eutoc »

After the explosion from last year I've had an interest in getting to know more about Lebanon. The setting would definitely retain my interest. Thanks for the review.
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Post by ButterscotchCherrie »

Miriam Molina wrote: 06 Feb 2021, 10:12 I just read that only the tusks are made of ivory. The other elephant teeth are just like ours. I wonder what tooth the book refers to.

I can imagine Noor's mother smoking two cigarettes. I'm also curious about courting rituals in Lebanon.

Wonderful review, as usual!
The elephant tooth is something unexpected and funny. Many thanks for your comment!
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ButterscotchCherrie
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Latest Review: The Elephant Tooth of '95 by Rana Baydoun
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Post by ButterscotchCherrie »

amrinzaeda wrote: 06 Feb 2021, 10:26 That sounds like a really interesting read! Since the US public education system barely touches on the history of the Middle East, I think this book would be a good start for me to learn about their culture through a non-American-biased lens. Thank you for your excellent review.
I know - we get information about the political instability, but less about ordinary lives and rebuilding. This provides some insights into that. Thank you for your kind comment!
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Post by Wamakima »

I really chuckled at the word knack. I know it was no pun intended because Toni is her boyfriend, but it's still very funny! I enjoyed your review!
But the path I’ve chosen has always been the right one, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. :)
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