Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb
Lilly, a young white Muslim woman, is eight when her British parents are killed in Morocco, and she is placed in the care of a Muslim disciple, who fills her days with the teachings of Islam. She later moves to Ethiopia, where she becomes a nurse, teaches local girls to recite the Qur’an, and falls in love with Aziz, a medical student who supports the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie. Lilly’s tenuous ties to the monarchy force her to flee to London when Selassie is deposed, in 1974; there she immerses herself in a refugee support group and waits to be reunited with Aziz. Gibb adroitly flips back and forth between prerevolution Ethiopia, where Lilly, though a foreigner, is admired for her knowledge of Muslim teachings, and London in the 1990s, where she feels stronger ties to Muslim refugees than to the British, who feel increasingly threatened by the refugees’ presence. Gibbs’ novel is a gripping and provocative addition to the post-9/11 genre of fiction exploring the many facets of Islam.