Frmesk 1: Dead Washer – Sara Omar

Norwegian title: Dødevaskeren

Hello book friends!

This novel went straight onto my Goodreads ‘Favorite’ shelf. It has it all. A fascinating and shaking story, strong characters, great flow and a brilliant language! This is the type of book that is hard to praise with just words but I’m going to give it a try, and hopefully, you’ll want to befriend Frmesk and her extraordinary story after reading this review. The synopsis is borrowed from Goodreads and translated by me:

The newborn baby girl Frmesk is unwanted by her father because she’s a girl. Her grandmother insists that she becomes circumcised but her mother fears the infant won’t survive the process. Fremsk’s mother becomes even more scared when her husband threatens to kill Frmesk by burying her alive. The solution is to let the child grow up with her other grandparents.

Dead Washer is in many ways a terrible novel but it’s also a touching, and an important contribution to the question of women’s basic shortage of rights in parts of the Muslim world. The novel created great reactions when it was published in Denmark and Sara Omar was put under police protection. 

Like the synopsis says, Dead Washer is in many ways a terrible novel because of its harshness and brutal reality, but more than that I felt it to be an educating, important, and deep read with a portion of allusion to the good in people. I was early captured by Frmesk’s story, both because the story starts with a rather horrifying scene but mainly because a father doesn’t want his daughter since she is a girl! This is something I’ve never had to experience in my life and it’s so alien to me that someone experiences this even before they can utter less than a few noises. Frmesk’s story shows us how many women in the Muslim world lives even today. Many have gained rights but too many live the life presented around Frmesk. I think Sara Omar pictures the many shades of Islam brilliantly with Frmesk’ grandmother on the more bright and loving side and others on the darker and extreme sides. Frmesk’s grandmother is a woman I would love to meet! She’s loving and kind but has a somewhat different mindset than many of her fellow women in town which presents some challenges for her. I have so much respect for this character!

This is the kind of book that makes me realize how little I know of other religions and their practices. My knowledge of Islam comes from my school years and after I finished school I’ve mainly seen it through the extremists in the media, so I’m not going to pretend that I know much about Islam or what it can be. However, I assume that, like many Christians, Allah is a presence to turn to for comfort. The feeling of belonging to a community is in many ways therapeutic, healthy, and creates a feeling of safety for many people, but a lot of this has been smeared by the media for many years now. I do not support IN ANY WAY the horrible things that happen within this story but like I’ve said before, a story has to sides, and when it comes to Islam I think many non-Islamic believers have somewhat forgotten that there is a better side to this religion. I have friends who are Muslims and it makes me a little embarrassed, to be honest, to realize how little I know of something so major in our world.

I had to google several things whilst reading and among them was the history of Kurdistan. I’ve had colleagues from Kurdistan and they’ve explained a bit to me about what’s been going on and what is happening now. I find it difficult to grasp because I’ve grown up in safe little Norway. It was therefore very foreign for me to fully grasp some of the scenes related to the war that rages in the Middle East while this book takes place. I think Sara Omar has a brilliant way of portraying the scenes but I don’t think my mind is fully capable to grasp it all because I’ve never experienced anything even remotely close.

Now that I know that there is a second book about Frmesk I’m even more curious about why Sara Omar has chosen to write the book in two perspectives. We meet Frmesk as an older version of herself in some short glimpses during the story but we’re mainly encountering her child version. The older Frmesk was just as intriguing to me as little Frmesk because you get the sense that something is going to happen. Its possible to sense it between the lines and I’m hoping this will continue in the second book! I’m also very curious about what happened between her childhood and when we meet her as an older version. Hopefully, the second book can give me some answers. The older Frmesk also portrays in an excellent way how small a religious community can be. I’m not going to say anything else about this because that would spoil too much!

If it’s one book you should read this year its this one! Dead Washer is a difficult story to read which makes it even more important. Frmesk is the kind of character it’s hard to forget and I know that I’ll keep her and her story with me for a very long time. Religion and history is weaved together in a great way and creates a bigger picture around the central story of this book. I learned a lot of new things for which I’m very grateful! Rumor has it that there will be an English translation at some point so stay tuned!

Published: 2017

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Theme: Religion, Islam, family

– The Book Reader

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