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Leila Aboulela. Image from The National.

Leila Aboulela is one Africa’s most beloved storytellers. Her readers can’t get enough of her evocative writing and the memorable characters that swarm her fictional world. Well, they are in luck. Aboulela has a new novel out. The novel is titled Bird Summons and was published in the UK on March 7 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

The novel tells the story of three friends who go an a trip and experience a shared encounter with a mythical creature.

The book is being described as a “magic carpet ride into the forest of history and the lives of women.”

In this new work, magic and folklore provide the narrative raw materials for a novel that explores questions of faith, femininity, and love through powerful representations of women’s lives.

Read the full synopsis from Good Reads.

Salma, Moni and Iman are embarking on a road trip to the highlands to pay homage to Lady Evelyn Cobbold, the first British woman convert to Islam to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca. The women are looking for more than a holiday. Each wants to escape her life; each wants an answer.

Salma came up with the idea for the trip. Born in Egypt, she moved to Scotland for love, giving up her right to practice medicine. Now a successful masseuse, married to David and bringing up their children, she feels that she still has to make an effort to belong. And when her old boyfriend Amir starts messaging her, she is tempted to risk the life she has worked so hard to build.

Moni has been caring for her disabled son Adam for five years and is reaching breaking point. Her husband wants them to join him in Saudi Arabia, but Moni is reluctant to uproot her son, taking him to a country where his condition will render him an outcast.

Iman, the youngest of the three, in her late twenties and yet on her third husband, is burdened by her beauty. Treated like a pet by her lovers and friends, she longs to be alone and free.

On a remote hillside in Inverness, each woman is visited by the Hoopoe, a sacred bird who comes with fables from Muslim literature and Celtic folklore, forcing the women to question how much they have sacrificed in the name of love.

Bird Summons is a haunting, fiercely compelling story of loyalties torn apart when love and religion, faith and culture collide – confirming Leila Aboulela as a leading storyteller of our times.

Congrats to Aboulela. This is Aboulela’s seventh book. Follow this link to buy Bird Summons.

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Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

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