Review: In the Land of Invisible Women

In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor’s Journey in the Saudi Kingdom – Qanta A. Ahmed, M.D.

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From the book jacket –

Unexpectedly denied a visa to remain in the United States, Qanta Ahmed, a young British Muslim doctor, becomes an outcast in motion.  On a whim, she accepts an exciting position in Saudi Arabia.  This is not just a new job; this is a chance at adventure in an exotic land she thinks she understands, a place she hopes she will belong.

What she discovers is vastly different.  The Kingdom is a world apart, a land of unparalleled contrast.  She finds rejection and scorn in the places she believed would most embrace her, but also humor, honesty, loyalty, and love.

And for Qanta, more than anything, it is a land of opportunity.  A place where she discovers what it takes for one woman to re-create herself in the land of invisible women.

My thoughts –

I am SO glad that I accepted this book from Danielle at Sourcebooks to review because this memoir was absolutely fantastic.  From the moment that I picked it up I just kept wanting to hear more from Qanta about her life in Saudi Arabia and I could barely put the book down.  In fact, I read it for about four hours of a roadtrip, and I almost NEVER read in the car.  It was that good.  What I loved about Qanta was how she described her life in the Saudi Kingdom with such refreshing honesty – everything that was scary and brutal along with everything that was lovely and warm, all together in one place.  She described friends she had made there, and talked of their outrageously backward views on things such as women in society and Jewish people, making it quite clear what her feelings were on their beliefs, yet still admitting she couldn’t help but love these people anyway – they were her family when she was so far away from her true home.  She spoke of the insane confinement the people of Saudi Arabia live with every day – curfews, needing to drive in cars with tinted windows at all times, covering every inch of the body even in the most extreme of medical emergencies, and incredible restrictions on when and where one could associate with friends, family, and other Saudis for fun.

She also spent much of the book describing how much she grew as a person while in Saudi Arabia, especially in regards to her faith.  She learned a LOT about what being Muslim really means, with regards to what the Koran says a Muslim should think and behave, but mostly about what she truly felt her religion meant to her individually, apart from the religious law of the Saudi land.  Although I enjoyed learning about Qanta’s spiritual journey, I have to admit that these portions of the memoir were my least favorite, and in parts I felt like she sort of dragged a bit – spending 5-10 pages on one very simple event, for example.  But religion was an important part of her journey, so I completely understand why she wrote those parts of the book the way she did.

What I most enjoyed reading about was the stories she told of the Saudi citizens she befriended while living there.  So many people, all so different, all living in this culture that dictates they all look and act exactly alike while in public.  It was fascinating to learn about them, especially things like their reasons for wanting to stay in the Kingdom, their decisions to raise their children in such a scary and oppressive place, and what good they believed they could do for this country they called home.  Really, just so fascinating.  I loved learning about all these friends of Qanta’s.

I can’t say it enough – this is a phenomenal memoir, and such an engaging read.  I highly, HIGHLY recommend reading Qanta Ahmed’s story … you will not regret it.

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7 thoughts on “Review: In the Land of Invisible Women”

  1. I got this book awhile back in the mail but haven’t gotten to read it yet. I’m looking forward to it a lot more now — nice review!

    Kim

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