A follow-up to a best selling novel could get repetitive. Chicago by Alaa al Aswani author of the best selling novel Yaqobian Building is no exception. Yaqobian Building was noted for breaking taboos in the Arab and Muslim world; Chicago is more of the same.
This new novel takes place in Chicago among Egyptian PhD students. Despite the different setting from the first novel it ties closely to home. Some of the issues were already reflected in the previous novel such as the corruption and oppression of the political system. Other issues are new such as 9/11 and the resulting Islamophobia in the US. On the social side there were plenty of breaking taboos as well, just like the first novel which got into homosexuality, but different taboos such as inter racial and cross faith relationships among others. However I felt the author overemphasized breaking taboos, as if he had a check list of them to cover.
The dimension I enjoyed the most was the struggle between eastern and western values. The author paints a vivid picture of that struggle. One character questions her strict Islamic values after falling in love. Overall Chicago is definitely a page turner that flows very well and is full of surprises.