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Evil Eye by Etaf Rum
Contemporary fiction

Evil Eye

Repeat author

Etaf Rum is back at Book of the Month – other BOTMs include A Woman Is No Man.

by Etaf Rum
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Quick take

Forced to confront past traumas and tensions between community and individuality, a woman attempts a personal reset.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Emotional


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Psychological


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FamilyDrama

    Family drama

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Serious



Raised in a conservative and emotionally volatile Palestinian family in Brooklyn, Yara thought she would finally feel free when she married a charming entrepreneur who took her to the suburbs. She’s gotten to follow her dreams, completing an undergraduate degree in Art and landing a good job at the local college. As a traditional wife, she also raises their two school-aged daughters, takes care of the house, and has dinner ready when her husband gets home. With her family balanced with her professional ambitions, Yara knows that her life is infinitely more rewarding than her own mother’s. So why doesn’t it feel like enough?

After her dream of chaperoning a student trip to Europe evaporates and she responds to a colleague’s racist provocation, Yara is put on probation at work and must attend mandatory counseling to keep her position. Her mother blames a family curse for the trouble she’s facing, and while Yara doesn’t really believe in old superstitions, she still finds herself growing increasingly uneasy with her mother’s warning and the possibility of falling victim to the same mistakes.

Shaken to the core by these indictments of her life, Yara finds her carefully constructed world beginning to implode. To save herself, Yara must reckon with the reality that the difficulties of the childhood she thought she left behind have very real—and damaging—implications not just on her own future but that of her daughters.

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Content warning

This book contains mentions of suicidal ideation.

Why I love it

I love when books explore how complicated it can be to figure out your place in the world. It’s not an easy topic to capture, but Etaf Rum—author of 2019 BOTY finalist A Woman Is No Man—has no problem digging into the complexities of how our past informs us in the present and the importance of pursuing a fulfilling life. Her latest novel Evil Eye brims with emotion and piercing insights.

Yara is a Palestinian American woman trying to figure out how to balance her responsibilities as a wife, mother, and a working woman. After growing up in a conservative household where tensions often ran high, she feels that she is finally free from her past in the life she has built with her husband. She was able to pursue her degree and has a full-time job at the local university, which is more than her mother ever had. But sometimes the life she built doesn’t quite feel like it’s enough. When things at work take a turn for the worse and she responds to a colleague’s racist comments, she is put on probation and must attend counseling. As Yara begins to understand herself and confront her tumultuous past, she comes to question whether the life she’s built is what she wants for herself.

Evil Eye is easily one of my favorite books of the year. It is a heart-wrenching story of self-discovery that will leave a lasting impression on you.

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