Review of Evil Eye by Etaf Rum
In Evil Eye, Etaf Rum (author of A Woman Is No Man) considers a small-town North Carolina artist, mother, and wife struggling with the conflicting pressures of her Palestinian culture and her desire to escape past trauma and move forward.
Yara is put on probation at the college where she is an assistant art history teacher after calling out a colleague for racism. She's required to attend therapy to learn to cope with her anger, even though she's sure therapy is just a waste of time.
So what if she's resentful of the limitations she allows to be put on her, if she's blanking on periods of current-day life due to stress, if she's increasingly dissatisfied with her life, if she's frequently flashing back to her parents' abuse? Isn't she supposed to feel thankful for a kind husband, healthy and lovely daughters, and being allowed to have a job?
Rum explores mother-daughter relationships and cycles of dysfunction and abuse in Evil Eye.
The bulk of the story is spent with Yara spinning her wheels, unable to feel connected to her life. She admits to the reader that she is not particularly attached to the idea of remaining alive, yet not actively looking to end her life.
Her childhood trauma has a strong hold on her, and only when she begins to face it can she fully realize herself. The challenging process of Yara's therapy and fight for growth is really satisfying to witness.
She realizes that the dreaded, looming specter of divorce, which is considered a life-ruining choice in her culture, may have been able to save her mother had she had any support in pursuing it. As Yara considers the same path, she has to fight against the voices in her head.
The evil eye imagery is poignant, as it carries from her mother to Yara and means different things to Yara at various points in her emotional journey.
Her husband's gaslighting during her emotional crisis threatened to make my head explode.
I listened to this novel, which alternates present-day scenes with Yara's journals (made up of often brutally painful, occasionally momentarily lovely memories of her childhood), as an audiobook (narrated by Vaneh Assadourian and Gail Shalan). The journal entries were read by the younger voice.
Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?
Etaf Rum is also the author of A Woman Is No Man.