Bird Summons, by Leila Aboulela
Published by Grove Press, 11th February 2020
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Borrowed (library book)
Salma, Moni and Iman, friends and active members of their local Muslim Women’s Group, set out on a trip to the Scottish Highlands. Their destination is the grave of Lady Evelyn Cobbold, who was a Victorian convert to Islam and the first British woman to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca. The three women are each on a personal pilgrimage of sorts and each hope to gain something from this journey.
When they are visited by the Hoopoe, a sacred bird from Muslim and Celtic legends, all three women start to question their relationships to faith and femininity, love, loyalty and sacrifice.
I had heard great things about Leila Aboulela’s writing and I was eager to pick this book up in my local library, especially as this author is listed as a bonus for my Reading Women Challenge this year. To be honest, though, I didn’t love this book.
I enjoyed each woman’s individual story and how they all tied together and could learn from one another. They all go on a separate journey into their faith and try to understand how to be happy in their own lives, which I found very interesting.
The book is also full of mythology and legends both from Islamic culture, but also from the Scottish and Celtic history in which the book is set. I really enjoyed discovering these different stories and they were very cleverly integrated into the overall narrative.
That being said, about halfway through, the book started to take some strange turns and I found it hard to stay engaged. At times I found it quite confusing and I wasn’t sure what was happening, but also why it was necessary.
I would like to read more from Leila Aboulela to see if I can connect more with another of her works.
My rating: 3/5