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One of the most endearing qualities about Aaliya, the 72-year-old narrator of Rabih Alameddine's latest novel, is her dry sense of humor.The action of "An Unnecessary Woman," the Lebanese-American author's fourth novel, takes place over the course of a few days, but the story encompasses a lifetime. A bibliophile whose every paragraph is littered with references to philosophers, authors, poets and classical composers, Aaliya spurns the company of those around her in favor of her literary heroes, most of them long dead.Aaliya worked in a rundown bookstore until it shut down after the Civil War. She has almost no contact with her family, nothing but memories of her only real friend and a polite but distant relationship with her neighbors, whose company she studiously avoids. Reasoning that many Lebanese readers already have access to great works of literature written in English and French, she chooses books written in other languages.Aaliya is intelligent, acerbic and funny, one of those rare characters who becomes more real to readers than the people around them, and will remain will them for a long time.Aaliya's cynical and entertaining voice prevents the book becoming maudlin, however.Along the way, the author weaves a detailed tapestry Lebanon's history.
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