Light and Shadow: A Review of Cristel Orrand’s “Khayal.”

Khayal was a refreshing read. While it’s something of a genre Love Child–neither a spy thriller nor a romance–it incorporates the best aspects of both. I found the deeply laid context of the novel an unexpected bonus. Orrand provides vivid descriptions of Jordan, the local culture, and features of both archaeological and cultural interest. She paints delightfully detailed scenes that are set in solid, realistic settings–whether its a restaurant frequented by locals or the Valley of the Moon.

As an anthropologist, I was also drawn into the narrative by Orrand’s respectful use and translation of local language. Even though it would have been a wonderful story without this feature, I found its presence to be one more reason to love the book. It was a part of the cultural context–which includes brief flights through the history of religion, conquest, and linguistic aspects that mark the country today.

Her characters were both believable and easy to relate to–even the main villain. As I noted, this book is neither wholly a spy thriller nor a romance. Perhaps that’s why I loved it as much as I did. It didn’t privilege the symbols or patterns of either genre–neither of which I routinely enjoy. It was not excessively fraught with plot twists, nor did it dwell sentimentally on the connection between two people. Rather, it had a pleasing resemblance to the human stories I cherish, the authors of which may come from every walk of life.

I would recommend this book to everyone. It is well-written. It is as culturally respectful as it is embedded within its geophysical location. Orrand provided three days of enjoyable reading for me. My only regret is that I could not make it last longer. She’s definitely on my short list of authors I’ll seek out in the future.



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