You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The background of the novel is a woman born to Palestinian parents, who were forced to relocate in 1967. They have family in Lebanon, West Bank, and Jordan, but live in America. Her parents had a volatile relationship and her mother has often treated her like competition or an inconvenience, telling her "You exist too much" when she responds emotionally, especially when she starts trying to come out to her. The refusal to understand her daughter as anything but straight is one backbone to the novel.
But this is not a family saga. It's more like a recovery novel. At the start of the novel, a relationship between the MC and her girlfriend Anna has just ended and it's definitely her fault. She's been sleeping with randos at the bar where she DJs and carrying on with a married professor while claiming to be monogamous; she decides to check in to a facility for addiction...love addiction. I was a bit surprised at this as the majority of the story, because the very first scene of the novel, where she gets in trouble for exposing her ankles in Bethlehem, made me think it would be a different type of story.
I was more interested in the parts about her mother, honestly, what her life started as and what happened in the war, the distributed nature of her family, the strangeness of her parents' marriage and how violence was the only form of attention - the author was making the connection between that upbringing and the MC's behavior but I think the piece that was missing is that I'm not sure the MC ever does. This makes it feel like the novel is a snapshot of the story but not the entire story, and I think that's okay, but somehow not as satisfying as I would have liked.
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