I love this woman, much as she claims to be unloveable. I enjoyed being in Aaliya's company, listening to her story. I enjoyed hearing her curse the books with epiphanies, and I saw her own epiphany coming from a long way away, but I loved it. Her ruminations were invitations to me to think about the purpose of a life, and I felt I had good company in my thought.
And as a story that educated me about Beirut, this book was subtle but powerful. Aaliya refers to the wars in passing, that they are part of life, and bring suffering, but she does not dwell on them more than the other causes of suffering in her life. They simply are. She does not rage, but she also is not passive.
I'm not sure what to make of the fact that the author here is male but manages to speak in a female voice that I found resonant. Maybe I'm not a normal woman and my perception is off. Or maybe he's an extraordinarily talented writer. I suppose it could be both.
Regarding some of the authors that are discussed in the book... I recognized some of them but not others. And perhaps if I had recognized and had read them all, this book would have been a richer experience for me, but I felt that I wasn't missing out on much of the story. I see the reference to name-dropping in the other reviews, but I'd guess that it was unavoidable in a book about a lonely woman who ran a bookstore for years. It didn't trip me up.