4 out of 4 stars
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Henry, a bestseller New York writer, was born into a powerful and wealthy family. He was born a winner. He was an outstanding student, studied business at Columbia University, and dated who his father told him to. After his father dies, Henry is free to pursue his dream of writing books. Like the winner he is, he becomes a successful writer. His last book, however, is a total flop. On top of that, his mother dies. Not knowing how to deal with defeat and grief, Henry takes off to Europe, where he engages in depraved and sadistic behavior. He does things he has never done before: cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, and rough sex. He enjoys inflicting fear and pain on prostitutes. Tala, a beautiful and deceptive Palestinian prostitute who used to be a refugee in Lebanon, is fearless in the face of Henry's abuse. Her attitude intrigues him. Tala tells him the story of her life and how she became a prostitute. After hearing her story of survival, Henry falls in love with her. What is more, he is determined to do whatever is necessary to win the heart of this astute prostitute.
Written by Chaker Khazaal, Tale of Tala is a romantic thriller consisting of 346 pages. Khazaal is a Palestinian-Canadian author and journalist renowned for his work on the refugee crisis and the Middle East. He brilliantly discusses the refugee crisis, the war in the Middle East, displacement, human trafficking, and prostitution in this book. Without a doubt, this is a contemporary, controversial, and eye-opening story. Khazaal's writing style is authentic, intriguing, and mind-blowing.
What I liked the most about this book was Khazaal's fearlessness in portraying current world issues through fiction. He created primary and secondary characters who echo the cruel reality thousands of people live at the present time. Tala represents the incredible and arduous journey of survival the refugees take to escape war and seek a better life. Dana and Shireen show the dangers the refugees encounter during the journey. Bilal exemplifies what happens to many young men in the Middle East. Abu Ali, Nazar, and Dimitrij embody the scum of this planet. Henry, meanwhile, personifies privilege in the midst of a harsh world.
Another aspect I appreciated about Tale of Tala was that it is, more than anything, a story about what human beings are capable of doing for survival. Khazaal did not create a rosy picture of the refugee crisis and the war in the Middle East. Most of the characters in this story are flawed. They do what they need to do in order to survive or get what they want. They abuse, lie, sabotage, scheme, rape, and kill. In other words, Khazaal depicts the human condition in its darkest moments. Even though I appreciated Khazaal's authenticity, I did not like how disgusting and sadistic Henry becomes after his book is a flop and his mother dies. Those scenes were hard to read and felt a tad gratuitous. In addition, his sudden changes of behavior confused me.
I rate Tale of Tala by Chaker Khazaal 4 out of 4 stars because it discusses significant current world issues and the characters represent the human condition. Furthermore, Khazaal's writing is brilliant and authentic. I did not find grammatical errors in the book. Note that this story contains strong sexual content, alcohol and drug usage, violence, and subjects that are not suitable for the faint of heart. This is not a book for sensitive readers. I mainly recommend it to those who like reading and learning about current historical events and other cultures. I would also recommend the book to readers of romantic thrillers.
Tale of Tala
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