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Image by Mario Cruz

Kingdom of Strangers
Reading Group Guide


Questions and Topics for Discussion


  1. Ibrahim’s son and daughter-in-law are having a difficult time procuring the divorce they both want, in part because Saffanah’s father refuses to take her back. What do you think is Saffanah’s best option? Was she right to hide her past from her husband? Do you think that in Western countries, divorce still carries a stigma? Are there compelling reasons to stay in an unhappy marriage?

  2. Katya is concerned about a new fatwa “saying it was sinful for women to work in public positions where they might come into contact with men.” Why do you think religious leaders in Saudi Arabia are so concerned about this?

  3. The novel’s title refers in part to the role immigrants play in Saudi Arabia’s labor force. How does the Saudi attitude toward immigration compare to that in your own country? What do you see as the advantages and drawbacks of the Saudi policy?

  4. Katya worries about how she will balance her professional ambitions with her personal life. She fears that getting married will mean being “boxed in, overworked, dreams slipping through the cracks of a fractured life.” Despite the differences in social and religious environment, do women in your country face similar concerns? What advice might you give to Katya in this situation?

  5. Ibrahim and his brother disagree about the effectiveness of Saudi’s penal code. Omar believes that harsh punishments, such as “chopping off a hand” for theft or capital punishment for murder, are successful deterrents to crime. Ibrahim thinks that “honesty came from the impulse to please others.” Who do you think is right? What do you think is the best way to deter criminal acts?

  6. Compare Ibrahim’s relationship with Sabria to that with his wife, Jamila. What do the relationships reveal about Ibrahim’s character? About his situation in life?

  7. Sabria’s activities are eventually revealed to have been both dangerous and illegal. Do you feel her actions were justified by her past history or her positive intentions? Was there another way for her to accomplish what she set out to do?

  8. Ibrahim observes that “any investigation into a missing woman, no matter how earnest, was always going to come down to the woman’s virtue.” Katya later reflects on the difficulty women face in proving a rape charge. To what extend do you think these obstacles exist in your own culture? What steps might a culture or legal system take to ameliorate them?

  9. After years of failed medical treatment, Ibrahim’s daughter Farrah visits a religious healer for an extreme ritual that does seem to alleviate her pain. To what do you contribute the apparent success of this treatment? How does this therapy compare to forms of alternative medicine practiced in your own country?

  10. On their visit to Kandara, Ibrahim and Katya witness the terrible living conditions of exploited foreign workers. Do you know of an analogous underclass in your own country? What are the key differences between the conditions of these marginalized groups and those of regular citizens?

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