Elizabeth Strout's newest book begins with crime. Zach, the youngest member of the Burgess family, throws a severed pig's head through the front door of a mosque in his quiet, rural Maine town. The mosque is run by a recently arrived community of Somali immigrants, who have already faced some hostility from the town. Everyone is shocked, but no one more so than Zach himself.
It's like this: Makeda is trying to make a clean break from her old life by getting a super's gig in a bohemian Toronto warehouse of artsy up-and-comers. And it won't be easy — she's still riddled with guilt and uncertainty, after having struggled for years to care for her bedridden father and to get out from under the shadow of her twin sister, Abby, who's kind of a diva and has a lot of pull in the family.
Poet Dunya Mikhail fled her homeland, Iraq, a few years after the first Gulf War. She had been questioned by Saddam Hussein's government, and state media had labeled her writing and poetry subversive. Mikhail escaped to Jordan and eventually reached the United States, where she made a home for herself — marrying, raising a daughter and becoming a U.S. citizen.
Mikhail never physically returned to Iraq. But she revisits her homeland again and again in her poetry — line by line, stanza by stanza.