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Layla AlAmmar grew up in Kuwait, with an American mother and a Kuwaiti father. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh. Her work has appreaed in the Evening Standard, Quail Bell Magazine and Aesthetica Magazine, where she was a finalist for the Creative Writing Award 2015. She currently lives in Kuwait. The Pact We Made is her debut novel.
As eight-year-old girls, three friends made a marriage pact. Now approaching thirty, Dahlia is the only one who remains unmarried and the pressure to conform, to accept a husband, is crippling. Dahlia is desperate to be “unfettered by customs and bonds and the burden of ancestry”, and it’s clear to her that life is much easier for young boys who “would have freedoms my sister and I never contemplated...the freedom to live their lives without constant scrutiny...the freedom to not marry without shame or guilt.” While Dahlia has conformed to her parents’ idea of a suitable career, she remains steadfast in her refusal to marry a man she does not love, and still harbours a desire to pursue her artistic talents, while battling familial and peer pressure, while haunted by the abuse inflicted on her by a family friend. Dahlia’s intimate, introspective narrative evokes a sense of constriction and conflict with remarkable potency, and readers will applaud her courage and acts of defiance. Thought-provoking, long-lingering and simmering with the strength of the human spirit, this is a powerfully assured debut.
Featured on BBC Radio 4's Open Book * Featured on BBC Radio 3's Free Thinking * An ELLE Magazine cultural pick * Reviewed in the Observer 'Beautifully written' Joanna Cannon 'Fascinating ... full of personality' Guardian 'Brilliant ... What a debut' Pandora Sykes 'How could I explain to her that nothing in my life felt real? That in a country like Kuwait, where everyone knew everything about each other, the most monumental thing to ever happen to me was buried and covered over? For the sake of my reputation, my future, my sister's and cousins; the family honor sat on my little shoulders, so no-one could ever know.' Dahlia has two lives. In one, she is a young woman with a good job, great friends and a busy social life. In the other, she is an unmarried daughter living at home, struggling with a burgeoning anxiety disorder and a deeply buried secret: a violent betrayal too shameful to speak of. With her thirtieth birthday fast-approaching, pressure from her mother to accept a marriage proposal begins to strain the family. As her two lives start to collide and fracture, all Dahlia can think of is escape: something that seems impossible when she can't even leave the country without her father's consent. But what if Dahlia does have a choice? What if all she needs is the courage to make it? Set in contemporary Kuwait, The Pact We Made is a deeply affecting and timely debut about family, secrets and one woman's search for a different life.