Shubeik Lubeik

Pantheon. Jan. 2023. 528p. Tr $35. ISBN 9781524748418.
At an unassuming street stall in Egypt, store owner Shokry has stocked something special: three first-class wishes. The book unfolds across three stories, each revolving around how one of the wishes is bought and used. In a world of commodified and potency-graded wishes, issues of class and privilege take on imaginative, yet grounded, stakes. Aziza’s symbolic wish for her late husband Abdo is buried under government regulation and incarceration. Nour, a college student living with depression, grapples with deserving a wish they bought with their parents’ money. The third story is a showstopper that shines a new light on a recurring character and will stun readers before they race to share with the nearest person. Each segment uses the fantastical premise to examine human relationships and the choices that shape our lives. Every chapter has its own visual flair belonging to its star characters while sharing a consistent Egyptian setting and cast, including Arabic billboards and expressions defined (sometimes humorously) in the margins. Thoughtful and hilarious infographics deepen the history of this alternate world. Creative paneling, lettering, and symbolism ensure readers will tirelessly explore this book’s dense rewards. Content includes swearing, smoking, and drug references.
VERDICT Your wish for a successful mixture of high concept fantasy, biting humor, and powerful moral struggles is granted.

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