Book Review: The Last Watchman of Old Cairo by Michael David Lukas

35791972.jpgIn this spellbinding novel, a young man journeys from California to Cairo to unravel centuries-old family secrets.

Joseph, a literature student at Berkeley, is the son of a Jewish mother and a Muslim father. One day, a mysterious package arrives on his doorstep, pulling him into a mesmerizing adventure to uncover the tangled history that binds the two sides of his family. For generations, the men of the al-Raqb family have served as watchmen of the storied Ibn Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo, built at the site where the infant Moses was taken from the Nile. Joseph learns of his ancestor Ali, a Muslim orphan who nearly a thousand years earlier was entrusted as the first watchman of the synagogue and became enchanted by its legendary–perhaps magical–Ezra Scroll. The story of Joseph’s family is entwined with that of the British twin sisters Agnes and Margaret, who in 1897 depart their hallowed Cambridge halls on a mission to rescue sacred texts that have begun to disappear from the synagogue.

The Last Watchman of Old Cairo is a moving page-turner of a novel from acclaimed storyteller Michael David Lukas. This tightly woven multigenerational tale illuminates the tensions that have torn communities apart and the unlikely forces–potent magic, forbidden love–that boldly attempt to bridge that divide.

Praise for The Last Watchman of Old Cairo

“A beautiful, richly textured novel, ambitious and delicately crafted, The Last Watchman of Old Cairo is both a coming-of-age story and a family history, a wide-ranging book about fathers and sons, religion, magic, love, and the essence of storytelling. This book is a joy.”–Rabih Alameddine, author of the National Book Award finalist An Unnecessary Woman

Book Review:

Fascinating. Unique. Captivating. The Last Watchman of Old Cairo by Michael David Lukas offers a lot of different important points that is relatable and relevant to the society today. This is a book that will provoke your thoughts regarding cultural representation with a mix of two different religions that will dwell on beliefs and magnificent choices about life. It is actually refreshing to read a book out of my comfort zone.

It discusses the passion of an individual to acquire knowledge, portrays some points that there are people who are opportunistic about the situation, then there are those who want power and influence. By all means, The Last Watchman of Old Cairo depicts a lot of human emotions and feelings – where greedy lies and yet shows the different situation and circumstances that can evoke the same greed.

I really liked how the diversity implied in the book not because it is what is the mainstream media is talking about but it feels like that this book is written because it wanted to teach the readers, it wanted to educate us on what is there out of our comfort zone and implying the representation in this book is not ‘forced’, unlike the other books that I’ve read in the past.

I also love the fact that this book doesn’t just willingly to emphasize forgiving and second chances – it taught me to show mercy, understanding, patience, and empathy. Despite having a little difficulty on immersing on the writing style of the author, I found it addicting – I couldn’t put the book down as I travel across through Egypt and learn the artifacts, get to know the culture there, the journey that the book has to offer.

The Last Watchman of Old Cairo by Michael David Lukas is a great read with a touch of magic. It made me lost myself in his words and travel through the pages. As much as I wanted to share some few things about the book, I’d rather have you read the book instead so you could experience that magic for the first time without knowing what the book will hold for you.


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4119867Michael David Lukas has been a Fulbright Scholar in Turkey, a late-shift proofreader in Tel Aviv, and a Rotary Scholar in Tunisia. A graduate of Brown University and the University of Maryland, his writing has been published in the Virginia Quarterly Review, Slate, National Geographic Traveler, and the Georgia Review. He has received scholarships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and the Elizabeth George Foundation. When he isn’t writing, he teaches creative writing to third and fourth graders.


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