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on July 28, 2002
In our current literary era of quirky, edgy characters fashioned solely for the purpose of being quirky and edgy (e.g., those terribly inauthentic women in Ya Ya Sisterhood, any character of Kingsolver's, most of the women's books of recent years), Alameddine's Sarah is a sigh of relief. Her tales, each an attempt to start off her memoirs, add up to tell the story of a life unique and absolutely compelling that feels, somehow, completely new and comfortably familiar. She is delicious: haughty, clueless, touching, exasperating, deep, shallow, and outrageously funny. The chapter about her tenure as an AIDS support volunteer once again illuminates Alameddine's breathtaking gift for presenting horror with a humor that never makes fun, never downplays, and neither winks nor blinks. Not since A Confederacy of Dunces have we seen anything as delightful as Sarah. This is a book to read, re-read, and only lend to a friend if he gives you something of great value to hold as guarantee of return.
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on August 30, 2004
Just like Adonis noted, this novel is completely on point. The life that Sarah Nour El-Din shares with us is one that is rarely so succinctly shown in public, with such truth - especially since Arabs/Arab American's do not ever like to air their "dirty laundry".

It had me completely addicted - It was as if I was watching glimpses of my family and friends lives...and that I was Sarah.
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on July 18, 2003
This book was a treat. I picked it up at a "2books for 10£" sale at a book store in London, as a companion to justify my other purchase.
I had vaguely heard of the author, Rabih Alameddine, who I believe has been championed by follow Lebanese, historian/author Edward Said. It wasnt until I read the gushing reviews from fellow authors inside that I realized the author was male.
As everybody knows by now, the book is written in a series of first chapters of a book. It was an interesting approach that did take a little while to get used to. Some of the chapters do indeed read like first chapters, and those validate the unique approach well. Others chapters felt less genuine in this regard and understandably, those felt a little gimmicky.
Overall the author does a good job in fleshing the story of Sarah Nour el- Din's life; a story that is being "written" by the protagonist as a memoir. He stumbles a bit in the beginning, and left this reader initially feeling like he had little clue as to how to inhabit the mind of a female character. After a few rough early chapters, Alameddine does a better job in capturing the neccesary nuances. And it is there that the story takes off.
Sarah's "family" is fascinating-- totally disfunctional but ever so clannish. As the novel builds momentum, it is easy to be drawn into the lives of each of the seemingly periferal characters-- fathers, mothers, sons, siblings and lovers.
Something worth noting:
The writing style in a few of the chapters was contrived and annoying-- but as I finished the book I was left with the impression that this was probably intentional. I think it was an effective way to show us the fits and starts that we all experince whenever we sit down to chronicle our own lives either orally or by pen.
I am looking forward to reading Alameddine's first novel "Koolaids."
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on October 9, 2002
I could not believe that the book is fiction. I laughed, cried, and felt the terror with Sarah. Sarah has an incredible multi-dimensional story interconnected with every member of her family. All of this while trying to figure out where she belongs. Rabih's story telling style let you gaze through the eyes of key people in the story, making you a willing participant in Sarah's life.
Rabih did an excellent job by guiding the reader through the ups and downs of her life, and bringing forward the intricate quarks of the Lebanese Druze culture and the language.
As a Druze and Arab-American, I connected with Sarah and her family from the first pages until the Introduction at the end. I was glued to the book, which I read in one day, although I am not an avid book reader. I also love the never ending chapter 1.
However there are two parts that I did not favor, chapter 1, pp 192-201 due to violence, and pp 231-240 for the dream/faint sequence. Other than that the book is excellent.
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on December 5, 2001
A perfect read for the times! Yes: I, THE DIVINE is an innovative novel--and a brilliant one at that.
But what really makes it tick is the frustrated, complex Sarah, who chapter after chapter, sorts out her story--and finally her family's story too. Plenty of surprises, strong and striking characters, and writing that is sometimes stark and sometimes evocative.
And, although it certainly wasn't written with this in mind, I found that I, THE DIVINE, with its Lebanese and Lebanese-American characters, is a poignant reminder just now that all cultures are really made up of individuals. Their triumphs and their hurts and recognitions co-alesce over the generations into histories that touch us all.
A definite must read.
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VINE VOICEon December 18, 2001
This is by far one of the best novels I have read in years. The scattered details of the Lebanese culture and traditions are notably overwhelming. It does not matter what your background or prejudices may be, it is guaranteed you will relate to Sarah Nour El-Din. Between Beirut, New York, San Francisco, Boston and Houston, Sarah's life is a roller coaster of fortunate and not-so-fortunate events that will break you, appease you and elate you. I loved it.
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on August 13, 2005
I've just finished reading I, the Divine. I bought it only two days ago. it's indeed one of the subtlest and most engaging novels i've ever read, and the most innovative ever. The novel has anything but a chronological order and doesn't abide by one narrative technique; it uses as many as you can imagine..from stream of consciousness, to flash-backs, omniscient narrator here and first-person there. It's entirely written in first chapters where some stories resume pages after they started. Sometimes the same story is re-told in a different style- or language!- the moment you think your mind had shifted far from it. At one point, you get the impression that you're reading more than one novel by different authors!

The characters are intricately sketched, through different points of view. The dialogues are cleverly made, suggestive and most importantly genuine and true. A Lebanese myself, I couldn't but identify with all the Lebanese characters in the story. Amazing!

Rabih Alameddine, we're proud of you.
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on April 21, 2014
Unfortunately, I read "An Unnecessary Woman" first so my expectations were set VERY high (maybe too high!). Reading Chapter I of an autobiography over and over is an extremely interesting way to present a story line -- but I'm glad that I read some reviews first or else I would have been somewhat confused. What continues to fascinate me is that the author is male but is so capable of capturing some very fine female nuances and reactions. Reading accounts of the same story/event from different perspectives is such an amazing (and realistic) way to understand the past. I'm happy that I read it.
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on August 3, 2002
The first time I saw this book, I was in a bookstore procrastinating the act of writing my own novel. When I saw the subtitle, I laughed out loud, and continued to do so after I opened the book and read the first 50 pages. For about a year, I could not get past the first chapter of my novel, and my titles were very similar to Sarah's (Half and Half, etc.) I loved this book, I loved Sarah, I loved laughing at her, with her, and through her. Thank you Mr. Alameddine for your latest illumination; your work will forever be remembered for its freshness, its honesty, and the unique beauty of its language.
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on May 8, 2015
Sarah Nour al Din attempts to write her memoir at various points in her life so far. If a writer learns that each chapter should contain a mini-plot but each not stronger than that in the first chapter, then, how would Sarah decide which mini-plot of her life bears the most significance? So, the reader is presented with a novel of first chapters, written in different voices, time periods and formats. It works! Rabih Alameddine writes with an accurate female voice and doesn't attempt to psycho-analyze his characters. Sometimes, no explanation is given at all, and I caught myself asking, "But what happened to that character?" Upon reflection, this is a story of first chapters for Sarah's memoir, not anyone else's. I enjoyed this book for its unique format, beautiful prose, and its story, which did gel into a full memoir. The characters are strong, especially the women. Well done!
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