Picks and Pans Review: Inside the Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabia

updated 07/26/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/26/2004 01:00AM

By Carmen bin Ladin

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Raised in Switzerland, Carmen Dufour was in her teens when she wed Yeslam bin Ladin, 25, whom she'd met in Geneva. Half brother to Osama, he was one of some 54 children born to Sheikh Mohamed bin Laden, founder of a Saudi Arabia construction empire. In this brave and moving memoir, Carmen chronicles her years in Jeddah with a tradition-bound clan whose women lived in silent submission. While her view of Osama is distant, what she reports is chilling: Sharing the epiphanies that spurred her to flee her marriage and protect her three daughters, she recalls the day when Osama refused to allow his sick, suffering infant son to take water from a baby bottle—declaring that only the breast was acceptable to Islam.

This is a brilliantly observed book; it's a must for anyone struggling to comprehend the culture that spawned the floridly evil Osama.

MEMOIR

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