The Girls from Alexandria -Carol Cooper

Nadia and Simone live with their parents in Alexandria Egypt, spending their days at the beach and avoiding too much interaction with their obnoxious cousin Victor.  Cooper weaves a dreamlike picture of their family and the extended community of "outsiders" who emigrated from Syria over 100 years ago. Their family is Greek Orthodox in a largely Muslim world.  Some experiences with trusted people go awry.  There is also love and humor and tragedy spanning fifty-plus years. We learn everything about the sisters' childhood, Nadia's escapades, marriage, affairs, and her observations of those who touched her life through Nadia's present-day remembrances from a hospital bed in England.  She has suffered a seizure with unexplained origins. Her doctors are convinced she is "EMI" (elderly, mentally infirm)  not the least because she keeps talking about her sister Simone when staff is certain she has no sister.  Simone was lost to the family about fifty years ago.  She sent brief postcards, meant to get past censors, but no information about where she settled in England.  Nadia's increasingly frantic efforts to find Simone and avoid being placed in a nursing home form the contemporary part of the novel.  Nadia is widowed, has no children and one friend.  One nurse kindly shares an IPad with her and gives her ideas about how to conduct searches online for her sister.  Other nurses tend to her but see her as fanciful and agree they need her bed for someone else.  Throughout, Cooper covers a period of intense political and social/cultural change in Egypt in the 20th Century.  This was engaging from beginning to end, beautifully conceived and written.

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