A spur-of-the-moment decision found Qanta Ahmed on board a flight from New York to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. As she boarded her plane, this US-trained physician of Pakistani heritage, raised in Britain, couldn’t help but wonder about many things: who were her fellow passengers; if she was appropriately dressed and how she would manage without the required abbayah; how would she manage to meet up with her sponsor (for as an unmarried female employee, she could not enter the kingdom without a male representative from her employer); and exactly what she gotten herself into. In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor’s Journey in the Saudi Kingdom is a fascinating account that answers all these questions and more in great detail, from abbayah shopping her first day, through coworkers reactions to 9/11 shortly before she left two years later. The reader also learns a great deal about Islam, as Qanta is Muslim and makes a pilgrimage to Mecca, again, described in great detail.
Holly Fitzgerald has experienced an abundance of heart-stopping experiences around the world, but none affected her as much as her near fatal river journey in the Amazon River basin. Years later, Fitzgerald’s daughter encouraged her to take a memoir class, and that resulted in Ruthless River: Love & Survival by Raft on the Amazon’s Relentless Madre de Dios, a recounting of several weeks in the spring of 1973. The author kept a journal at the time, and so tells the tale as though it were yesterday, of how what was to be a wonderful year-long around the world honeymoon turned into terror. Holly and her husband Fitz survived a plane crash only to become stranded in a cove of the Madre de Dios, attacked by bees during the day and fearing the sounds of the jungle at night. They are truly lost in the jungle and resort to the unthinkable to survive. Anyone who enjoys a riveting true survival story will be fascinated by this one.
Exit West is the fourth novel for Mohsin Hamid and deals with the very timely politics of immigration and refugees. A young couple in an unnamed country on the brink of disaster fall in love, and as conditions get more and more explosive Nadia and Saeed make the decision to leave through one of the many doorways they have heard whispered about, a doorway not without risks but one that can get them out of the chaos of the country. Described by a staff member as “a spellbinding blend of reality and unreality with lots of social commentary,” readers who enjoyed those same elements of The Underground Railroad may find a great deal to like about this title.