By Natalia Alvarez and Gurnish Kaur
Not To Be Overlooked introduces a variety of wonderful but lesser-known books to assist readers in finding their next great reads. This week’s column covers a review of Abundance by Jakob Guanzon and Your Wish is My Command by Deena Mohamed.
Abundance by Jakob Guanzon
Have you ever considered how much money you spend in a day? Whether out of necessity or for the simple pleasure of buying something because you can, it is easy to forget how these purchases can add up from day to day. For some, even the smallest of purchases must be carefully weighed. This is a concept that is explored in Jakob Guanzon’s debut novel Abundance, released on 2 March 2021 by Graywolf Press. Here we are given a glimpse into the lives of our dual narrators, a father and his eight-year-old son, as they struggle to survive a life of poverty in the Midwestern United States. For them, no purchase is made without careful consideration and any setback can give way to disaster.
Abundance opens in a McDonald’s, where our first narrator Henry splurges on a birthday meal for his son Junior. The amount of money Henry has left in his pocket is given at the beginning of each chapter, adding to the anxiety we feel as we see the amount slowly lowering as the story progresses. Henry is deciding if he will have enough money to rent a motel room leading up to a crucial job interview he has the following day. Prior to this, the two have been living out of Henry’s pickup truck. If the interview is successful, this can change the way the two have been living. Unfortunately, it seems Henry and his son cannot catch a break and the night unravels as disaster after disaster takes place. As these events unfold, we are given flashbacks to various events in Henry and his son's lives that help piece together the circumstances that led to their current situation. We see Henry as a young man, his own father making a decision that leads to a job termination. Then, we see Henry’s own decisions following this change in lifestyle, as well as his relationship with Junior’s mother. The use of showcasing both past and present decisions allowed me to better understand Henry and Junior.
This is a novel that is made great in its relevance. It shows the realities of people living in poverty in America and how hard it can be for a person in this situation to climb out of it. No matter how good their intentions may be, and how well things may be going, all it takes is one wrong decision to bring you back to square one.
Your Wish is My Command by Deena Mohamed
Shubeik Lubeik: “your wish is my command,” a saying we are all familiar with, regardless of language. We all have desires and wishes, but what if we lived in a world that allowed us to be granted our deepest desires? Deena Mohamed’s graphic novel Your Wish is My Command is set in a magical Cairo where wishes can be bought and commanded. This three-part graphic novel is an exploration of human aspirations, faith and grief.
Your Wish is My Command has been awarded the Best Graphic Novel and the Grand Prize of the Cairo Comix festival. Originally published in three volumes between 2017 and 2021, Granta compiled the three Arabic volumes into a beautiful hardback for English readers in 2023.
Your Wish is My Command follows the story of three people who are grappling with different desires and circumstances. Wishes in this world are not free, they require licenses and money and have different rankings, similar to prohibited items in our real world. We are introduced to Shokry, a kiosk owner who has possession of three wishes. After becoming a widow, Aziza is the first to buy a wish while struggling with the death of her husband and his debt. Nour, a privileged university student struggling with their mental health and hoping to be free of their depression, purchases the second wish. Shokry, the kiosk owner, is then left with the last wish as he battles with his religious convictions. As Aziza, Shokry and Nour grapple with the weight of their choices, readers are invited to reflect on their journeys of self-acceptance and growth.
Through dynamic character development and relatable struggles, Your Wish is My Command has transcended cultural boundaries and is a great read for either someone who has never read graphic novels before or for someone who wants to expand their comic book collection. Deena Mohamed’s detailed illustrations transport readers to a vivid world filled with fantastical elements, unique yet authentic Cairo landscapes and breathtaking action sequences. I also loved how Deena Mohamed kept the element of reading from right to left as the novel was originally written in Arabic.
With its intricate artwork and compelling narrative, this graphic novel takes readers on an extraordinary journey. But the question is: are the wishes we want, truly what we desire?