Beautiful medical student Layla thinks she loves Matthew Mulberry enough to accept his ring. Yet she senses there is something he’s not telling her. One day on the soccer pitch she comes face to face with Mohamed El Taher. He’s Matthew’s double but also a ghost from her past. After that, hers and Matthew’s relationship gets even more tangled. However, in Mohamed’s Moon Keith Clemons doesn’t only create a love triangle but brings the world of these two Egyptian expatriates into collision with a cell of calculating killers who have infiltrated America’s highest office.
Clemons’ deft storytelling captivates as he whisks us between the present and the past, Egypt and California, and the viewpoints of Matthew, Mohamed and Layla. Through Mohamed we come to appreciate how a belief system even intent on murder can make sense and have a steely grip on mind and heart. Somehow, using his writer’s sleight of hand, Clemons makes us sympathetic toward all three of the main characters, even though two are bitter rivals.
The vivid portrayal of life in Egypt makes this book an especially rewarding read. It's easy to see how Clemons has earned the label “atmospheric storyteller':
“The wind blew incessantly, painting the sky a dirty brown. It had come up suddenly, a desert storm, whipping the sand into a froth, tearing at clothes, twisting hair, and scouring lungs. The man hid behind his camel with his head buried in the animal’s thick fur, using it as a wall against the assault. Smelly matted hair, like old rugs, soiled and musty and full of ticks, but the insulation kept him alive. The beast knelt with its eyes closed its legs folded underneath, hunkered down to ride out the storm.” p. 1
Clemons deals with some significant themes – inequality between rich and poor (including the amusing irony of the Lexus-driving Mohamed pontificating against America’s wealth to his rival, who drives a beat-up VW), forgiveness, and the clash between Christianity and Islam. Mohamed is thoroughly versed in the Qur’an, and he and the cavernous-eyed professor Omar quote it often. When Mohamed obtains a Bible, its message of love and forgiveness shocks him. Could this be true?
Mohamed's Moon is full of surprises and suspense – a book with a taut beginning, middle, and end that’s hard to put down.
This is the first of Clemons’ five books that I’ve read, but I’d definitely read more. It’s not every day you find a writer who tells a riveting and entertaining story while tackling timely and controversial issues — doing it all with literary finesse.