Book Review: The Twenty-Ninth Year by Hala Alyan

ttny.pngThe Twenty-Ninth Year by Hala Alyan
Published: 2019
Genre: Poetry
Format: Paperback
Pages: 96
Source: Library
Dates Read: March 4-5, 2019
Grade: B-
Synopsis: In Islamic and Western tradition, age twenty-nine is a milestone, a year of transformation and upheaval.

For Hala Alyan, this is a year in which the past–memories of family members, old friends and past lovers, the heat of another land, another language, a different faith–winds itself around the present. Hala’s ever-shifting, subversive verse sifts together and through different forms of forced displacement and the tolls they take on mind and body. Poems leap from war-torn cities in the Middle East, to an Oklahoma Olive Garden, a Brooklyn brownstone; from alcoholism to recovery; from a single woman to a wife. This collection summons breathtaking chaos, one that seeps into the bones of these odes, the shape of these elegies.

A vivid catalog of trauma, heartache, loneliness, and joy, The Twenty-Ninth Year is an education in looking for home and self in the space between disparate identities. (from Goodreads)


This is an interesting case of liking the voice more than the poems. I think it’s a good, cohesive collection, but as a whole it just didn’t work for me. There were a few lines that really struck me, though. While some of these poems didn’t resonate with me, the voice did. Alyan’s words seep into your head and leave you pondering them long after you’ve finished reading.

Favorite Poems:

  • “Armadillo” 98-9)
    • What do we do with heartache? Tow it.
  • “You’re Not a Girl in a Movie” (31)
    • Everyone wants a rock bottom. Some Icarus shit. // But the truth is some holes keep going, yawning, heady, one mistake / becoms three: // there’s always a dark darker than the dark you know.
  • “Instructions for a Wife” (42)
  • “I’m Not Speaking First” (51)
    • I want to love something without having to apologize for it. Please don’t tell.
  • “The Honest Wife” (96)
    • I lied and said I loved Philadelphia, but really I just loved the idea of a place so old it only knew how to tell the truth.

The Book Depository | Amazon | Library | Goodreads

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