A mesmerizing breakthrough novel of family myths and inheritances by the award-winning author of Crescent.
Amani is hooked on a mystery—a poem on airmail paper that slips out of one of her father’s books. It seems to have been written by her grandmother, a refugee who arrived in Jordan during the First World War. Soon the perfect occasion to investigate arises: her Uncle Hafez, an advisor to the King of Jordan, invites her father to celebrate the king’s sixtieth birthday—and to fence with the king, as in their youth. Her father has avoided returning to his homeland for decades, but Amani persuades him to come with her. Uncle Hafez will make their time in Jordan complicated—and dangerous—after Amani discovers a missing relative and is launched into a journey of loss, history, and, eventually, a fight for her own life.
Fencing with the King masterfully draws on King Lear and Arthurian fable to explore the power of inheritance, the trauma of displacement, and whether we can release the past to build a future.
About the Author
Diana Abu-Jaber is the award-winning author of seven books of fiction and nonfiction, including Crescent and The Language of Baklava. She lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Diana Abu Jaber outdoes herself with this brilliantly paced and utterly absorbing novel. From start to finish, her dynamic prose and seemingly effortless storytelling create an original narrative of love, intrigue, and family/global dynamics. Fencing with the King is a flavorful page-turner that will both nourish and satiate. You are in for a treat.
— Laila Halaby, author of Once in a Promised Land
Fencing With the King is a delicate arabesque of intertwining family relationships. Moving through the bouganvillia-splashed villas of upper-class Jordan, a poet raised in America struggles to decode her father’s world of allusion, indirection and heartbreaking secrets. The novel probes the cost of exile and voluntary expatriation, asking: When is inheritance a blessing, and when is it merely a burden?
— Geraldine Brooks, author of The Secret Chord
Fencing With the King, about a young American woman's encounter with her Jordanian family and their complex legacy, is a rare pleasure. Abu-Jaber's rich characters live and breathe around you, and her nuance and wit bring the largest themes to irresistible, present life.
— Claire Messud, author of A Burning Girl
The best novel I’ve read all year: shimmering prose, compelling emotion, and utterly impossible to put down. Rarely has the terroir of ancestry been so masterfully evoked. Abu-Jaber’s best yet.
— Nicole Mones, author of The Last Chinese Chef
I read Diana Abu-Jaber's Fencing With the King in one sitting -- I couldn’t stop. Ambitious, vivid, compelling, and full of life, this rich family story tells so many truths and uses family myths and fables to explore complex history, intergenerational trauma, and the wounds of exile and displacement. An absolute must read.
— Etaf Rum, author of A Woman is No Man
Abu-Jaber spins a mesmerizing tale of displacement...this is a haunting look at the pull the past exerts on us.
— Poornima Apte - Booklist
Abu-Jaber ably captures the tenuous role of Jordan in the mid-1990s Middle East peace process while unearthing a family’s buried secrets. It adds up to an engrossing family drama.
— Publishers Weekly