Hiding in Plain Sight, Nuruddin Farah

Sometimes when you impulse-pick up the newest book by a famous author you have never tried before, it turns out to be a mistake because their latest book is not their best book, but you don’t know that, so what you think is, I don’t like this author. When maybe what you’ve just done is write off J. R. R. Tolkien because you didn’t like The Silmarillion.

I wasn’t, in short, wild about Hiding in Plain Sight. It’s about a woman named Bella who suddenly becomes guardian to her niece and nephew after their father, her beloved older brother Aar, is killed in a terrorist attack. She is fine with taking on this responsibility. The nephew and niece are also fine with it. For a while it seems like their irritating and irresponsible mother Valerie will not be fine with it, but in the end — spoiler alert — it turns out she is fine with it.

I have said this more snidely than the book deserves, as there’s something really nice about reading a book where everyone is trying their best. But when everyone is trying their best, you do also run the risk of being a bit boring, because conflict is the engine that drives a story. Hiding in Plain Sight can be a bit boring.

Oh, and here is why I am also an awful person for not liking this book: While Nuruddin Farah was in the process of writing it, his own sister was killed in a suicide bombing. This is the kind of life-reflecting-art that Diana Wynne Jones always talked about, magnified to the most hideous degree.

Assistance please! I feel very guilty for not liking Nuruddin Farah’s book more, and I would like you to tell me which book of his is the best book. I think this is like when my friend tried to read Shame without having read anything else by Salman Rushdie. Just a bad idea.

  • This has happened to many too many times – the first book I read by a well-liked author is a bummer of a book and then I just never want to read more by that author. I don’t think you should feel guilty about it. I haven’t read anything by this author so I am interested in other recommendations too.

    • Well, if I try one of his more famous books, and like it, I’ll be sure to review it in this space so you can know. 🙂

  • Alice

    Ooh I hope he doesn’t feel like he somehow magically caused his sister’s death by writing the book, because my brain would totally go there.

    Also I’ve never heard of this person and what is their famous book.

    • I KNOW MY BRAIN WOULD ALWAYS GO THERE. As I was reading about this, I strongly reconsidered a story I am plotting in my brain in which the sister dies. I have three sisters. None of them can ever die EVER EVER.

      His famous book: I think this book called Maps is the famous one. I think.

  • I’ve had that same experience, mostly recently with Thrity Umrigar, whose books so many people seem to love, but I haven’t seen so many great reviews of her newest book, which is the one I tried (and couldn’t finish).

    And what an awful experience for Farah! I’m impressed that he went ahead and finished the book. Maybe it was therapeutic to do so, especially if it is a book where people are doing their best and coping.

    • Oh, shame! I know I have heard of her too, and I want to say I tried reading one of her books once to no avail. But it was so far back in the mists of time that it was before my blog, so I don’t have a clear recollection of my impressions.

      I know, that’s so awful. I have heard authors talk before about things they write in the past coming true, but this is just such a terrible iteration of that.

  • I’ve had this happen to me too. Good idea to check out a different book. Hopefully, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  • Alley

    I also do not know who this author is (thanks, Alice, for making me feel better about that!) Whomp for a conflictless book

    • Yuuuup. I’ve only heard of him because I worked on a project about African literature for work one time. I heard of him from that.

  • Stefanie @ So Many Books

    I h ave not read Farah but I certainly am familiar with the name. I’m pretty sure this has happened to me before too but I can’t at the moment come up with specifics. Maybe just try one of his other books you have heard talked about a lot but wait a month or two?

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