Fencing with the King by Diana Abu-Jaber
In 1995, King Hussein of Jordan is about to turn 60. Gabe Hamdan is invited to his homeland for the festivities, including participating in a fencing match with the king. Gabe’s daughter Amani, a recently divorced poet in upstate New York, offers to accompany her father. Scraps of poetry written by her grandmother make Amani curious to learn her family’s history, and eager to finally visit Jordan. One of Gabe’s brothers, Hafez, works with the king and is delighted to host his relatives, but with the ulterior motive of reclaiming an ancient family dagger.
There is some intrigue, complex family dynamics, and even a potential love interest for Amani. The real highlight of the novel for me was the beautifully described scenery and historical sites of Jordan, including a Bedouin camp. Amani overcomes her writer’s block, uncovers family secrets, and even ventures alone into the desert in this compelling and atmospheric story. The author’s father is Jordanian and fenced with the king in their youth.