And What Can We Offer You Tonight is a gorgeously devastating little book. Mohamed’s lush, expressive prose creates a tangible world for readers to sink inside and builds the complex and intricate story into something unforgettable.
This book’s great glory is its attention to language. Mohamed’s descriptions are intoxicating: “a grand jagged ruin bleeding rust into the slowlapping sea”; “the sky is blueblack as a bruise and the water is the same and between them, very often, is a single knife-thin slice of gold sun”; “the music, from floating speakerlights, comes down ghostly and slow, like snow rather than sound”. In other hands, the tumbles of descriptions might trip over themselves, but here they soar, lifting the story out of the simmering dark cauldrons of rage that underpin its events and transforming it into something luminous and transcendent.
One minor criticism is that, every so often, the lovely, flowing sentence and paragraph structure rushes into a tangle and becomes difficult to follow. It does not happen often, and, with careful reading, is easy enough to untangle—but it did, in a few places, jar me out of the story. My only other quibble is that it’s never made clear how, or why, every character appears to simply understand and accept a central plot point that does not strike me as the obvious assumption for them to make about what is happening. However, neither of these points ultimately detracts terribly much from an otherwise spectacular story.
Overall, I found this book engrossing, enchanting, heartrending, and entirely worth several reads. One of the best things a novella can do is to somehow leave its reader at once satisfied by a fully-realized story and yet still longing for more. This book amply satisfies that potential; I am glad to see that Mohamed has several other books currently in print and more forthcoming.
I received a digital advance copy of this book from Neon Hemlock Press via NetGalley in exchange for my review.