Between Beirut and the Moon

This coming-of-age story ( pages) was published in August of 2020 by Influx Press. The book takes you to post-civil-war Beirut. David read Between Beirut and the Moon and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if he didn't recommend it.


Between Beirut and the Moon

A. Naji Bakhti

Meet Adam, the young narrator of this coming-of-age story set in post-civil-war Beirut. He’s got big dreams of becoming an astronaut, but there’s no way to get from Beirut to the moon.

This episodic novel skips through time, following the ups and downs of Adam’s youth and introducing Lebanese culture along the way. The story begins with his home life, centered around his father — an idealistic journalist surrounded by books — and his mother, who smokes too much and worries about her kids: Adam and his sister, pony-tailed and sassy. Also worth noting: Adam’s father is Muslim; his mother is Christian.

Author A. Naji Bakhti explores the social impact of these religious differences on the street and in the playground. And a very clear picture emerges of home life and the education system. The author even introduces some Arabic: ‘Mother and father’ is a colloquial term used in Lebanon to express the idea of something whole or complete. For instance, the weight of the explosion knocked the man, mother, and father right out of the window, as men in Beirut occasionally are; or the building collapsed, mother and father, to the ground, as buildings in Beirut occasionally do.

The subject matter of this novel can be pretty intense; everyday events are far different in Beirut than in, say, Columbus, Ohio. The writing makes up for it with dark humor and charm, and by populating this story with characters who are people you want to know, even during the hard times.

One memorable scene perfectly captures the absurd humor and abject fear that jostle for prominence on seemingly ‘normal’ days. Beirut is being bombed, and Adam’s family takes shelter in the bathroom to wait for it to stop. They’ve been there for hours — mother, father, sister, and Adam — surrounded by the smell of toilet paper and cleaning supplies and, eventually, the smell of their bodies and tension, trapped in this small space. They’ve long since stopped whatever they were doing and don’t know when they’ll return to whatever it was. So they wait, cycling between thinking they could soon die a horrible death and enduring a particular kind of boredom. And suddenly, Adam — 13-year-old Adam — realizes he has to pee.

This novel is a moving, often humorous, always compelling look at modern Beirut told by a writer who deftly juggles the light and the dark.

Many years later, long after I’d left Lebanon to pursue a higher education in London, my father would write a heartfelt article in An-Nahar newspaper. It would be his final article before he retired.

‘I curse the country,’ he would write, ‘I curse the country that bid our children farewell with a smile across its face and told them to never return. I curse the country that presented our children with two alternatives: death or immigration and instructed them to pick between the two. I curse the country that forced its parents to send their children to outer space — or worse Europe — and wave silently from afar. I curse the country that gave our children water but no future, soil but no belief, light but no hope. I curse the country that stripped our children of their parents, and us of them. I curse the country that made fools of us all and led us to believe that we would grow old watching our sons and daughters rise to greater heights amongst their fellow countrymen. I curse the country that robbed me of my afternoon Arak with my son. I curse the country that deprived me of the sight of his wispy beard slowly maturing into one which resembles my own. I curse the country that resigned my wife and I to that comfortable couch in the living room, staring past broken shards of glass into the empty void that is tomorrow. I curse the country, mother and father.’
— A. Naji Bakhti

sharing is caring!

Wanna help us spread the word? If you like this page, please share with your friends.

our mission

Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.

our patreon

Strong Sense of Place is a listener-supported podcast. If you like the work we do, you can help make it happen by joining our Patreon! That'll unlock bonus content for you, too — including Mel's secret book reviews and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.

get our newsletter

Join our Substack to get our FREE newsletter with podcast updates and behind-the-scenes info join in fun chats about books and travel.

no spoilers. ever.

We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.

super-cool reading fun
reading atlas

This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.

get our newsletter
Sign up for our free Substack!
follow us

Content on this site is ©2024 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.