Book Review……

by Katrina Tuy De Los Reyes

Once in a Promised Land chronicles the disintegration of a couple’s marriage in the turbulent days following 9/11. Jassim, a hydrologist and his wife Salwa left their native Jordan and came to America to fulfill their quintessential dreams. Yet their seemingly idyllic life in Tucson, Arizona begins to unravel as they face the repercussions of 9/11 in unexpected ways.

As they encounter racism and the harsh realities of being viewed as outsiders, Jassim and Salwa turn away from each other and begin to lead parallel lives. Jassim accidentally hits a teenage boy with his car and kills him. He keeps this secret from Salwa and finds a way to deal with his own grief; his “suspicious actions” lead to an unfounded FBI investigation that costs him his American dream. Salwa too keeps several secrets from Jassim: she becomes pregnant against her husband’s wishes and is then consumed by an eventual miscarriage. Her grief and despair causes her to succumb to the affections of a younger co-worker and causes her to question her purpose in America. By detailing their failing marriage amidst national turmoil, Laila Halaby deftly describes Jassim and Salwa’s isolation not only from American society but also from each other.


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