The characters of The Down Days seem to go through their lives with one eye closed: they live in a city where events not even an hour later are guaranteed, and the novel relishes exploring what this might do to their psyche.
Unlike most frame narratives, we do not return to the academic once the manuscript’s tale is told. By leaving the bracket open, Nimr presents the spirit of Palestinian folktales as though it were an heirloom to be passed on, endlessly and freely.
Something terrible lies just under the surface. I particularly love the delicious feeling of readerly vertigo in those books with unreliable narrators, where something suddenly shifts and you realize that you’ve been believing a potential pack of lies. The narrative ground drops out from under your feet and you’re left wondering how to proceed.
My favourite aspect of this book is how it understands that the aftermath of an apocalypse is just the inward breadth before the next one. There is always another apocalypse—and we must still strive to stop it.
The lack of focus that results from this capacity is mirrored in the structure and presentation of that book, and it is in this, and in the character of Josie herself, that Hello Strange is most successful.
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