3 out of 4 stars
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It always seems impossible until it's done. For women who have existed under years of denigration, abuse, and humiliation, the idea of living freely and independently seems impossible. But when change begins to come, it is witnessed with shock, tentative hope, and anticipation to finally cast off the chains that have held them.
In Unbowed: A Novel by Lestine, the cruelty shown to women everywhere in the world is brought to light. In Africa, India, and the Middle East, the problem is worse and carried out under the guise of decency and religious codes. People are murdered, raped, and mutilated because they are female. Women are subjugated and stripped of their voices and identities to protect men's dominant positions in the family and society. When brave women begin to speak out, and victims find their voices to let the whole world know their story, it leads to a revolution. This causes women to wake up and take back the freedom and rights that have been denied them.
This novel is truly captivating and heart-wrenching. I found myself engrossed in it from start to finish while experiencing a roller coaster of emotions. I was horrified, hopeful, and joyful as the story progressed. Contrary to what I expected, it wasn't some twisted 'feminist' book designed to bolster the divide between men and women. This book drew my attention to the real dangers women face. Whereas women would more easily relate to this book, anybody with a desire for equal human rights for both sexes would also enjoy this book. However, some Muslims might see this book as an attack on their religion. People who are deeply committed to the principles of Sharia law would find this book offensive. Finally, due to the explicit sexual descriptions, it won't be appropriate for young readers.
The author created characters that were real and endearing. All their mistakes and breakthroughs were documented and shared with the reader. They could easily have been people who really existed. The author showed the stages of their growth and how they attained maturity. For example, Basma, the main character, started as a timid, naive young woman conditioned by her environment. Through her experiences, she progressed to a courageous, outspoken woman who could make decisions for herself and take responsibility for them. This wasn't intended to be a spoiler as there was more to Basma that you'd need to read the book to discover.
The writing of this book was smooth, almost lyrical. The descriptions were dramatic, and the way the author built up to the climax was exciting. I got caught up in a different world while reading this book, and I almost forgot where I was. The author was able to stir up emotions with her writing to inspire her readers.
My only issue with this book is its grammatical structuring. Some of the scenes seemed to jump around a bit, and too many commas were used in some sentences. There are a plethora of errors — another round of professional editing will fix them. Therefore, I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. Feminists, women's rights adherents, and people who enjoy a well-written story will have a swell time reading this book.
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