Book review: ‘Because I Will Not Be With You’ (as a writer much longer)

“Li’anni lan Akoon Ma’ak” (Because I Will Not Be With You) is a collection of short stories by writer Maha Adel. The book, published by Dar Publishing in May, is Adel’s first literary attempt and hopefully her last.

On Adel’s Facebook page, the author describes her book as a bridge between romanticism and the harshness of reality. But Adel herself struggles with reality, as “Li’anni lan Akoon Ma’ak” tries hard with little success to link readers to her adolescent fantasies.

On its cover, the book features a ballerina dancing in a tutu against a tacky beige background, a character that has nothing to do with any of the 17 stories. Maybe Adel was a ballerina at some point in her life.

The book can be more accurately described as a collection of thoughts and reflections rather than short stories. There are no characters, no names, no faces, no climax and no end. There are instead snippets of one woman's love life, or rather, imaginary love life. 

Every single “short story” is about a man and a woman in love, yet they are mostly shallow and one-dimensional. There is no mention of names, social status, looks or character. To the reader, the characters in Adel’s book are faceless puppets with no personalities. All the snippets are open-ended, and fail to trigger any emotion or thought in the reader. Some of the short stories even seem delusional.

“Dahiat Maaraka” (Victim of a Battle) is about a pillow fight between two newlyweds that ends in the miscarriage of their first child.

He spends that day blaming himself and hearing the voice of the doctor, which is killing him. He thought he was playing with her … but the game killed his first unborn child. She feels his torment and knows he did not mean to harm her; she kisses his hand and says, “Don’t you know you are my first child?”

The writer keeps creating the same concept of the loving couple throughout the book, each time in a different context or place. Whether they are in the kitchen, the living room, the bedroom or the ballroom, they are always doing the same thing: looking into each other’s eyes, talking sweetly, hugging, dancing, etc. All the snippets are redundant and unrealistic, causing the collection to come off as a personal diary that is of little interest to the reader.

Even Adel’s only attempt at poetry in the book, titled “Fever,” is weak and disengaging:

He didn’t leave her / He immersed himself in her / She cried like a baby from the cold / She resided in his arms while her fever weakened in the water / He held her hand / Never make your pain silent.

“Fever,” as its name suggests, is about a woman who suffers from a severe fever, leading her partner to put her in a tub full of cold water to make her feel better. The story is juvenile, highly reminiscent of the “Abeer” romantic books popular among teenagers in the eighties. Despite their cheesy cover designs and content, the “Abeer” stories at least had some depth and followed the literary structure of a novel, which is something our author has failed to do.

The author’s writing, although linguistically and grammatically sound, is stale and unsightly. She is too direct and literal, refusing the reader room to imagine scenarios or interact with the story and the characters. Moreover, the snippets are too short and do not leave any room for embellishment.

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