Bird Summons

Leila Aboulela

304 pages February 2020 Copies in English Literary Fiction

Represented by Stephanie Cabot

In her adventurous new novel, New York Times Notable author Leila Aboulela delivers a lively portrait of three women who embark on a journey of self-discovery while grappling with the conflicting demands of family, duty, and faith.

When Salma, Moni, and Iman―friends and active members of their local Muslim Women’s group―decide to take a road trip together to the Scottish Highlands, they leave behind lives often dominated by obligation, frustrated desire, and dull predictability. Each wants something more out of life, but fears the cost of taking it. Salma is successful and happily married, but tempted to risk it all when she’s contacted by her first love back in Egypt; Moni gave up a career in banking to care for her disabled son without the help of her indifferent husband; and Iman, in her twenties and already on her third marriage, longs for the freedom and autonomy she’s never known. When the women are visited by the Hoopoe, a sacred bird from Muslim and Celtic literature, they are compelled to question their relationships to faith and femininity, love, loyalty, and sacrifice.

Brilliantly imagined, thoughtful and wise, Bird Summons confirms Leila Aboulela’s reputation as one of our finest contemporary writers.


Named One of The Guardian‘s Best Books of 2019

“[E]legant . . . [P]ossesses all the pleasures we’ve come to expect from Aboulela, the author of Lyrics Alley and The Translator: psychological acuity, rich characterization, intricate emotional plotting. And prose that is clear, lovely and resonant as a ringing bell.”―Washington Post

“This novel is a perfect balancing act: a beautiful portrait of three individuals, an insightful blend of Muslim and Celtic fables, equal parts fierce and fun.” ―LitHub, “10 New Books We’re Excited About This Week”

“Aboulela does a beautiful job examining faith and the interior life of women.” ―Christian Science Monitor, “10 Best Books of February”

“[E]ngagingly executed . . . .Each well-developed plot line deepens characterization, while Aboulela’s interweaving of Muslim and Celtic fables via the sacred hoopoe bird, adds another dimension to the story and offers a sense of connection between the two traditions and the past and the present.”―Booklist, starred review

“[I]mpressive . . . Aboulela’s novel is empathetic and insightful, offering a nuanced representation of the three characters through a blend of Islamic faith and Scottish folklore.”―Publishers Weekly

“Tender, but unsentimental. . . rooted in everyday experience without forsaking the spiritual, told in effortlessly enjoyable style.”―Daily Mail