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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Tense and Compelling, The Confusion of Languages Makes for An Engrossing Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

For ex-pats living in the Middle East, following the rules is of utmost importance.  At least, that's how 34-year-old Cassie Hugo feels.  Over the last two years that her husband has been working for the American embassy in Amman, Jordan, she's learned how to handle herself in a very foreign culture.  By adhering to the rules, she's remained safe and sound.  Bitter because of her inability to become pregnant and the increasing strain that struggle has put on her marriage, Cassie isn't exactly happy, but she is settled into her unconventional life abroad.  

Because of her expertise, Cassie agrees to mentor Margaret Brickshaw, a young mother who's just arrived in Amman with her husband.  Cassie's enamored of Margaret's 15-month-old son, Mather, even if she's growing more and more frustrated with his effusive, impulsive mother.  No matter how many times Cassie warns Margaret to restrain herself, the newcomer refuses to listen.  Wanting only to explore and experience real Jordanian culture, she takes risks that—in a place like Amman—could be deadly.

Cassie's worst fears are realized when Margaret is arrested after a minor car accident.  When she fails to return from the police station, Cassie grows concerned, then terrified.  What trouble has Margaret's impetuousness gotten her into this time?  How can Cassie help her if she can't even find her?  And what will she do with poor Mather, who cries for his mother?  In a place where breaking the rules can result in the most dire of consequences, what will happen to one hapless, naive American woman?

An ex-pat herself, Siobhan Fallon brings that unique experience to vivid life in The Confusion of Languages, her first novel (read about Fallon's real-life experiences living in Jordan here).  Amman provides a colorful backdrop for a tense, engrossing story peopled with characters whose personalities and relationships are realistically complex and flawed.  I cared about these story people, which kept me turning pages in order to find out their separate fates.  While the tale definitely gets depressing, it's undeniably engaging.  With skilled prose, a propulsive plot, an exotic setting, and intriguing characters, The Confusion of Languages is a well-crafted novel about regrets and redemption, fences vs. freedom, and caution vs. compassion.  I quite enjoyed it.

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-galley of The Confusion of Languages from the generous folks at Penguin Random House via those at NetGalley.  Thank you!


  1. Caring about the characters in a book is becoming more and more important to me.

    1. Agreed. If I don't like the characters, I have a hard time caring about what happens to them.

  2. Sounds interesting. But, I need less depressing in my life right now.

    1. I know what you mean! I read this one back in September -- seems like I read a lot of depressing books around that time :(

  3. I really want to read this book. I talked with this author by email several times about her previous book. She did an event at the Austin Public Library and she told me a bit about life as a military wife. I had kind of forgotten that this book was coming out! How could I? LOL

    1. It sounds like she's led a fascinating life! I haven't read her first book, but I probably will since I enjoyed this one. She's a really good writer. I'll be interested to see what she publishes next.

  4. My niece has been to Jordan several times over the past three years; I'll have to suggest this book to her. (And read it myself, of course!) :)


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