In this swift and engrossing translation from the original Italian, Divorce Islamic Style can be seen for exactly what it is: a literary moment in the hands of a writer whose degrees in both philosophy and cultural anthropology interlock our empathy and our ineptness. Amara Lakhous, in fact, knows how to make our exposure to this underbelly feel like nothing less than a treat.
The story (and its dual narrators) is immediately likeable, both in spite of and because of the rather outlandish set of coincidences that brings the characters together. We have alternating chapters from the eyes of Issa and Sofia, the former of whom isn’t actually who he says he is and the latter of whom wishes she wasn’t. Issa isn’t a Tunisian immigrant at all, but an Arabic-fluent Italian spy who is working underground for the government to expose terrorist threats. Sofia the Egyptian lives in the same neighborhood of Rome, a veil-wearing, observant housewife to a strict Muslim and with few options to project outward her inherent vivaciousness, constantly waffling between her religious conviction and her desire for autonomy.