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Jokha Alharthi, the first Arab author to win the Man Booker International Prize, has been lauded for writing a novel that delivers a cross-generational female perspective on life in a rapidly changing Oman. Three sisters do form the fulcrum around which we are led into the shifting world of Oman in the latter half of the 20th century, yet the only first-person voice in "Celestial Bodies" is that of Abdallah, the undesired husband of eldest sister, Mayya.Narrating every other chapter, Abdallah reflects on his life, moving between his relationship with his wife and children -- his eldest daughter is studying medicine -- and his father, a merchant whose wealth derived from the slave trade.Abdallah seems the principal character, but the Arabic title, "Sayyidat al-qamar" -- literally "Ladies of the Moon" -- suggests the novel's protagonists are three sisters from the village of Al-Awafi.Oman's modernizing society is demonstrated in the changing choices of the characters.For a novel of such scope, covering the guts of a century and some three generations of multiple families, "Celestial Bodies" is surprisingly slender -- a mere 243 pages.
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