Review: Chasing Shadows by Leila Yusaf Chung


Title: Chasing Shadows

Author: Leila Yusaf Chung

Published: Vintage: Random House May 2014

Status: Read from May 16 to 21, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Moving from post-war Poland to the birth of the State of Israel, through the years of Beirut’s civil war and the first days of Iran’s revolution, Chasing Shadows shares the tumultuous fates of Abu Fadi, his wife Keira and their children, Taheya, Fadi, Ajamia and Miriam in this uncommon debut by Leila Yusaf Chung.

The narrative is largely divided between the third person viewpoint of Abu Fadi, and Ajamia’s, written in the first, with brief chapters exposing the perceptions of the other family members, shifting in time and place.

Abu Fadi’s story begins with his desertion of his identity, and barren wife, in Poland to make a new life in Palestine. After converting to Islam he takes a bride, teenage beauty Keira, who bears him four living children as the family is shunted from Palestine to Syria and finally re-settled in a Lebanon refuge camp.
Ajamia is six when her mother disappears, presumed by Ajamia to be dead, and she and her siblings are farmed out to an orphanage, rejoining their father only once their primary education has finished. After high school she attends nursing college, but soon after her graduation the Lebanese civil war erupts and Ajamia escapes to France. Her time in the country is brief, after she is misled by a persistent suitor and finds herself in the midst of the Iranian revolution, she is returned to Beirut only to find her family has disappeared in the chaos. Twenty years later, Ajamia is the single mother of a daughter Marianne, longing to find her missing family, and solve the mystery of her mother’s fate.

Loss is the major theme of this novel – loss of homeland, of family, of culture, and of identity. However for Ajamia it is the loss of her mother, Keira, that defines her. Though the Middle East conflicts disrupt and displace Abu Fadi’s family they are still forced to face the ordinary moments of living.

I didn’t always find it easy to follow the narrative of Chasing Shadows but I found it to be an interesting and thought provoking examination of history, culture and family.

Chasing Shadows  is Available to Purchase from

Random House I boomerang-books_long I Booktopia I via Booko

Amazon AU I Amazon US





5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Melinda
    May 30, 2014 @ 23:20:19

    Sometimes stories around different cultures (different to me) are fascinating. I love the book cover!



  2. Daystarz Books
    May 31, 2014 @ 10:29:04

    Just starting this one so I was interested to read your review Shelleyrae. Looking forward to reading this one.



  3. Christina
    Jun 02, 2014 @ 03:03:31

    I’ll have to pick this one up. Sounds fascinating!



  4. Trackback: Around the World in 12 Books Challenge – May Round-up | Giraffe Days
  5. Gail
    Jan 13, 2015 @ 19:14:28

    I also liked the book, but didn’t always find it easy to follow. The ending seemed abrupt! I am wondering if my copy has the last few pages missing. Can anyone confirm/deny that the last line is ‘Hurry, Ajamia.’ Fadi stretched his arm out to his sister.?



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