If You Love Television Dramas, You'll Delight in This Indie Novel
Please note that I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
From the prologue, which takes us inside the collapsing World Trade Center on 9/11, to the end, Full Circle by Regina Timothy lays bare many of the political and social issues the United States has been grappling with since before the 9/11 attacks. Despite its seriousness, Full Circle reads like a television drama. The cast includes Samia, an Iraqi refugee; Melisa, a faltering fashion mogul; and Susan, Samia's hapless friend who also happens to be Melisa's assistant.
Samia, Melisa, and Susan all have leading roles as well as their own plotlines, but Full Circle pays the closet attention to Samia. Samia fled Iraq to save both her life and the life of her unborn son. When Full Circle begins, her son is ivy-league bound but struggles with bullying at school.
Samia works as a maid for Melisa. Both Melisa's fashion empire and marriage are crumbling, and she worries about her brother who is on his second tour of duty in Iraq. She takes her anxiety and rage out on her employees including Susan and Samia.
Susan is Samia's friend and they support each other. Susan lost her husband to suicide and her daughter has a scary, chronic illness. As you can see, Full Circle touches on a variety of serious issues including 9/11, Islamophobia, racism, bullying, social alienation, domestic terrorism, school shootings, poverty, gang violence, chronic illness, child abuse, drug addiction, PTSD, suicide, and women's rights in the middle east.
Where Full Circle Shines
Samia’s story is my favorite part of Full Circle because her life produces most of the action in the book. After 9/11, Samia "felt her neighbors' hatred seep through the walls." She is harassed, called a number of racial slurs, and threatened. She also worries about her son's own issues with disillusionment. Because of these incidents, Samia struggles with her feelings toward her religion:
To them she would always be the face of evil. Nothing more; just pain, loss, and senseless destruction. For a second, she felt rage at her religion as she always did whenever she thought about everything she had been through. But the anger was soon replaced with shame and regret. It wasn't her religion that had done this to her. It was the people, people who spoke for it and those who spoke against it. (p. 27)
Nothing makes a character seem more human than an internal struggle that pulls the character in two different directions simultaneously. Melisa's character also develops a level of complexity that I enjoyed later in the book. I appreciate how Melisa is an example of the adage "hurt people hurt people." Although I liked Samia and Melisa's depth of character, I think the plot is too complicated. That said, Timothy does a great job interweaving the various plot lines. Full Circle actually comes full circle.
Who Should Read Full Circle
Despite enjoying parts of Full Circle, I can't give it my wholehearted endorsement. The book has a number of typos and grammatical errors, which I feel terrible for pointing out because writers are human right? I can overlook a few, and I'm sure I have plenty on this site, but Full Circle has too many for me to give it five stars. On Goodreads, I also took off a star because, overall, the story is a bit superficial. Because it deals with so many serious issues, Full Circle only addresses a few of them well. Less would have been more here, and all the drama makes Full Circle emotionally draining to read. Finally, despite the drama, I didn't cry, and I should have as one of the issues the book discusses strikes a personal chord. Regardless, Full Circle is an interesting and thought-provoking story particularly when it comes to Islamophobia and PTSD, and if drama is your thing, you will love this book.
by Regina Timothy
Regina Timothy. 389pp.