the age of reinvention book coverReviewed by Neriza Billi

From France to the United States, before and after 9/11. A tragic story of three people; their rise and fall from grace; the lies and secrets that have haunted them and finally, caught up with them.

Samir, Nina, and Samuel were good friends back in France. Samuel is Jewish, and he’s been with Nina for some time when they met Samir, an attractive, charming Arab originally from Tunisia. When Samuel caught Nina and Samir in bed together, he made her choose. Nina chose to stay with Samuel.  Samir, devastated, left Paris for Canada and eventually, United States.

After twenty years, Samir, now known as Sam, has become a famous lawyer in the United States.  Married to a woman from a well-known Jewish family. But, he harbors a secret. They do not know that he is lying about being Jewish, about his parents and that he’s still got a mother and half-brother in France. They all know him as the Jewish orphan from France.

Samir’s past started catching up with him when he received a phone call from Nina and his mother.  From that point on, everything seemed to unravel on its own. Samir tried his best to keep his secret but how can he stop it when the United States government steps in?

The Age of Reinvention was originally published in French. But I wouldn’t have known since the writing from start to finish felt like it was initially done in English. Karine Tuil’s style is quite unique. She writes in the third person, and yet the dialogues are all embedded in the paragraphs. There were times that I was not sure if the character said it aloud or just in his/her head. She has given a solid multi-dimensional characterization to her main players; and footnotes to the minor ones. Some of these footnotes are quite funny and tragic at the same time, like a neighbor of independent means whose only dream in life is to acquire Samir’s apartment. Yet, all these annotations have one thing in common. Like her main characters, they focus on the person’s dreams–ascribing their self-worth in attaining them.

There were a lot of themes in the story, but the one that was constant was race. It was the primary cause that goaded Samir, and each and every character has been impacted by it. Nonetheless, race was not the theme that made this a tragic story. It was money, attachment and the extraordinary self-importance conferred by a privileged social position. Everyone hit rock bottom at some point, some of them made it out, some were still trying to reinvent themselves.

I went through various emotions while reading this book. The only thing I regret is that I will not be able to experience the same thing when I read this book again. It is that kind of story–it makes me envy anyone who reads it for the first time.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Neriza Billi works a regular 9-to-5 job in Stockholm where she resides with her husband. In addition to reading, she enjoys travelling and curling up with a glass of good wine.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Atria Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.