Booksmith is thrilled to welcome The Oracle of Stamboul author Michael David Lukas back to the store to launch his anticipated second novel, The Last Watchman of Old Cairo. Please join us!
Joseph, a literature student at Berkeley, is the son of a Jewish mother and a Muslim father. One day, a mysterious package arrives on his doorstep, pulling him into a mesmerizing adventure to uncover the tangled history that binds the two sides of his family. For generations, the men of the al-Raqb family have served as watchmen of the storied Ibn Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo, built at the site where the infant Moses was taken from the Nile. Joseph learns of his ancestor Ali, a Muslim orphan who nearly a thousand years earlier was entrusted as the first watchman of the synagogue and became enchanted by its legendary—perhaps magical—Ezra Scroll. The story of Joseph’s family is entwined with that of the British twin sisters Agnes and Margaret, who in 1897 depart their hallowed Cambridge halls on a mission to rescue sacred texts that have begun to disappear from the synagogue.
“A beautiful, richly textured novel, ambitious and delicately crafted, The Last Watchman of Old Cairo is both a coming-of-age story and a family history, a wide-ranging book about fathers and sons, religion, magic, love, and the essence of storytelling. This book is a joy.”– Rabih Alameddine, author of the National Book Award finalist An Unnecessary Woman
“Michael David Lukas has given us an elegiac novel of Cairo—Old Cairo and modern Cairo—with a bit of Berkeley thrown in. His prose is deeply evocative, and a sense of mystery and profound tristesse pervade this unusual narrative, which tells the story of a young California man on a quest to understand a puzzling gift left for him by his late father, the descendant of generations of watchmen at the venerable Ben Ezra synagogue in the depths of Old Cairo. The novel is enhanced by Lukas’ impressive historical research on the Geniza and the colorful characters involved in rescuing its treasure trove of documents. But his greatest flair is in capturing the essence of that beautiful, haunted, shabby, beleaguered, yet still utterly sublime Middle Eastern city.”– Lucette Lagnado, author of The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit and The Arrogant Years.
Michael David Lukas is the author of the international bestselling novel The Oracle of Stamboul, which was a finalist for the California Book Award, the NCIBA Book of the Year Award, and the Harold U. Ribalow Prize, and has been published in fifteen languages. He has been a Fulbright Scholar in Turkey, a student at the American University of Cairo, and a night-shift proofreader in Tel Aviv. A graduate of Brown University, he has received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He lives in Oakland, California.