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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

Excellent choice

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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.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Evil Eye.
Evil Eye



I don’t know why I’m writing this. William said it would help me articulate myself to you, reconcile past and present. I need to go back there, need to find a way to reach you, but I don’t know how.

I’ve never been good with words. There are some things language cannot communicate.

Instead, I paint pictures in my mind. I build a white house with a colorful garden and a tranquil lake covered in emerald-green lily pads, then I put myself inside of it. The rooms are bright and airy, with big windows through which I watch the world. Outside, birds chirp and flowers bloom and everything feels calm beneath the wide, open sky. I close my eyes and paint more images, one stroke at a time, of sunflowers and sunsets and rooms full of books so I don’t have to be alone.

I’m trying to listen to William’s advice, to close my eyes and quiet the voices in my head. But when I begin to write down memories, attempt to lay them out in clear sentences, the words won’t connect. When I look back for you, my mind goes blank. I can’t describe it, this feeling I cannot name, this wound I cannot see. I feel it, though, like every bone in my body is on fire.

William says that writing can transform the unspeakable into a story.

Only I don’t want to tell a story, I want to break free.

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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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Member ratings (6,079)

  • Haley I.

    Orchard Lake, MI

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️great book but ‘A woman is no man’ was far better by Etaf Rum - both books followed a very similar story line. This one was less dark and motivating about self help, mental help, and change.

  • Rebekah F.

    Brooklyn, NY

    Rum is so talented! Loved this story so much & rooted for Yara the entire way thru her journey of self discovery. Beautiful, courageous, fully developed characters. Cant wait for her next book! ⭐⭐⭐⭐️⭐

  • Andrew C.

    Wilmington, NC

    “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Finding self worth and love is never a curse. I was enraptured by Yara’sstory of reflection.

  • Chelsey N.

    San Marcos, CA

    4.5 ⭐️’s. There were about 50-75 pages were it felt redundant, but once I got through those pages, the book just flew. Hard topics for women, especially of different religions. I broke our pattern.

  • Nellia B.

    Gilroy, CA

    I love the way Etaf Rum explains the difficulties of Arab culture while describing the beauty, too. Just a truly heartbreaking and loving story of surviving childhood trauma. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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