An Unnecessary Woman
by Rabih Alameddine
(Discussion questions provided by a book club member)
1. Do you find Aaliya likeable? Was she arrogant or insecure? Is she relatable?
2. Why does Aaliya have such disdain for others?
3. Do you think Aaliya longs for contact with other people? Examples?
4. Why didn’t she connect with “the three witches”, even though she listened to their lives? Was that her choice or theirs?
5. What roles did Ahmad play in Aaliya’s life? Why does he leave the bookstore and Beirut? Compare and contrast him to the other male characters in the story, such as Aaliya’s “impotent insect” of a husband, Aaliya’s half brother, or Hannah’s lieutenant.
6. When Aaliya’s translation manuscripts are ruined in the apartment flood, how would you describe the responses of Aaliya’s neighbors—the women she refers to as the “witches”? Were you surprised by their responses to her distress? What does this scene at the end of the novel reveal about female friendship?
7. “I create and crate!” Does Aaliya’s anonymity as a translator really make her an “unnecessary” woman in her eyes? What are some of the other ways that the book suggests that Aaliya could be considered an “unnecessary woman”?
8. Was there a shift in Aaliya’s relationship with her mother that pushed her toward greater interaction with the world around her?
9. Is reading a way of engaging with the world?, a way of taking refuge from it?, or just avoiding it?
10. All of Aaliya’s thirty-seven translations have been works already translated from their original languages—she only does “translations of translations.” But at the end of the novel, Aaliya decides she’s ready to undertake her own translations of books initially written in French or English. What does this change say about Aaliya?
11. What did you think about the ending of the book? Is she an “unnecessary woman”? Is it even accurate to say that isolation makes a person unnecessary, or is there fullness and value in a life lived alone?
12. Discuss Aaliya’s acquisition of the gun.