In this tale of a Somali family and the struggles of its powerful matriarch to keep it whole, Nuruddin Farah delves into the ways people - families, communities, countries - are bound together by what they are willing to give and what they choose to receive.. "Duniya is raising her twins as a single mother and working long hours as a nurse at a Mogadiscio hospital, certain she can do just fine without anyone's help. But the fragile self-sufficiency of her world has been rocked by her daughter's latest act of rebellion: bringing home a mysterious foundling infant. And when Duniya impulsively accepts the favor of a ride to work from a charming, wealthy, and romantically-interested family friend, she opens up a part of herself that she closed off long ago. Instantly, her whole life is turned upside down.. "Meanwhile, the hospital where Duniya works is under siege by a desperate population that has been ravaged by war, drought, disease, and famine. Somalia has been invaded by relief organizations from America and Europe, but many Somalis chafe at being burdened with debts they can never hope to repay, and at having to accept tainted goods for which they're obliged to show gratitude. They, like Duniya, however, are being forced to reexamine old choices and to make new ones that reveal what they truly care about.
In Gifts, the second volume in Farah's Blood in the Sun trilogy (see Maps, above), the same forces of war and unrest in Somalia shape the life of Duniya, a widowed nurse with three children trying to juggle a career and the emotional needs of a mature woman in the big city. Nearing 35 years of age, she is pitied by her fellow nurses as a woman whose happiest years have already passed her by. As Duniya recalls the dearth of choices in a rigid patriarchal society, she tells how her dying father asked his friend, Zubair, to marry his young daughter and how she was unable to refuse the old blind man, who would sire her twins before dying. Over the course of Duniya's many adventures, her sanity is buttressed by her loyal friend, Bosaaso, a widower Duniya meets at the hospital. The solidity and sincerity of their unlikely relationship counteracts the pain and confusion caused by the series of mishaps that befall the resilient Duniya, who represents, in her strength and courage, the kind of women who enable Somalia to survive its darkest moments. In Gifts, as in Maps, Farah presents a remarkable portrait of unquenchable humanity in a beleaguered people. Reading both these distinctive, significant books will whet the reader's appetite for Farah's powerful early works. (Aug.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.