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Mother Without a Mask: A Westerner's Story Of Her Arab Family    by Patricia Holton order for
Mother Without a Mask
by Patricia Holton
Order:  USA  Can
Kyle Cathie, 2004 (1993)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In Mother Without a Mask, Patricia Holton tells the story of how two Arab boys, sons of an Abu Dhabi Sheikh, became part of her own family in London in the 1970s, and how this led over time to her own inclusion in their extended family in the United Arab Emirates. The boys called her 'Mrs Tea Cup', and they learned from each other.

After 'Second Son' and 'Youngest Son' stayed with Holton, she was invited to Abu Dhabi on the Arabian Gulf to meet their mother in her hareem. So began a 'friendship which would have to cross chasms of time and tradition.' Over the years and repeated visits, Holton saw close up the changes that oil wealth brought to this clan, but also gained an understanding of the importance of traditions in their lives. She says of the discovery of oil in the region that 'Air conditioning and mind conditioning had arrived in about equal proportions.' Her closeness to the family, through one son's illness and another's engagement and wedding, strengthened their mutual bonds of affection.

In an introductory Reflection, the author speaks passionately of 'the beauty, grace and manners of a rare society which grew out of the need to survive' in a challenging environment. She also advocates for 'lifelines of wisdom and understanding' between the Western world and the Middle East. Though Patricia Holton presents, in Mother Without a Mask, a lifestyle very different from what is familiar to most readers, she also shows good people doing their best to come to terms with a changing world - as are we all.

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