1.02.2016

My Name is Mahtob- Review

A recent American college graduate was traveling in Chad, a Muslim-majority nation in North Africa. The pickup truck broke down. Passengers rested in a roadside stand of hammered-together boards. A Chadian man was traveling with his wife. She was fully veiled, in spite of the Saharan heat. Her husband did not speak to her. He controlled her with gestures and sounds, as if she were a dog. At his command, she squatted on the dirt floor, her covered face against an interior wall of the shack. As her husband conversed animatedly with the American, and bought him drinks and snacks, she squatted silently, hour after hour, probably both hungry and thirsty, until another conveyance arrived.

Mahtob is now 36, and able to tell her own story. My Name Is Mahtob is superb. It is more than a page-turner that addresses sensational, headline-making family scandal and international intrigue. It is a flawlessly written, exquisitely intimate memoir of the coming of age of a timid introvert who had to find her own version of strength after fame was thrust upon her. It is a record of how someone who suffers more than outsiders might imagine reconciles her trials with Christian faith. It is a heart-rending account of the irrational ugliness of child abuse, and the Catch-22, dead-end mazes that abusive parents force upon their own innocent children. It is, in places, a terrifying account of being stalked.

If you are a father, I ask you to imagine how your daughter would write of you in her memoir. Through you, your daughter learned how to love and trust a man. Your daughter learned that men have beards, and deeper voices, and are good with tools. In any memoir I'd write of my dad, I'd mention his ferocious dedication, no matter how old he got, to keeping his sidewalks clear of snow. I'd mention my confidence that no matter where or when my car broke down, he'd rescue me.

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