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New York Times Reviews ‘Enter Ghost’

Hamlet, and a Political Awakening, Stir in the West Bank

Isabella Hammad’s new novel, “Enter Ghost,” recounts an actor’s return to Palestine amid a sea of troubles.

By Lily Meyer

ENTER GHOST, by Isabella Hammad

Ordinarily, coming-of-age stories build to a pivotal moment when protagonists who are not yet adults become them. “The Catcher in the Rye” remains a prevailing model. But in real life, only the lucky — or unlucky — among us grow up just once. More often, coming-of-age happens repeatedly, in irregular and bewildering bursts.

“Enter Ghost,” Isabella Hammad’s terrific second novel, centers on a woman undergoing one such existential growth spurt. Sonia, a British-Palestinian actor in her late 30s, is recovering from a troubled romance with a director who raised her hopes not only for her love life but for her faltering career. In the affair’s aftermath, she takes a prolonged trip to Haifa, Israel, where her father grew up and her sister, Haneen, now lives. Her intention is to lick her wounds, spend some quality time with Haneen and return to London rejuvenated. Instead, she is talked into joining a staging of “Hamlet” in the West Bank, a decision that leads to both a quest for political knowledge and a painful awakening.

Hammad’s elegantly sprawling debut, “The Parisian” (2019), began in Nablus in the early 20th century and traversed decades of Palestinian history. “Enter Ghost,” though contemporary, is thoroughly infused with Palestine’s past — and thoroughly haunted by Sonia’s. Hammad, who is both a delicate writer and an exact one, intertwines the two, taking care to give Sonia as many personal ghosts as she does historical ones. Read the full review at the New York Times.

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