Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

"Celestial Bodies" explores the interconnected lives of three Omani sisters as they navigate love, loss, and tradition.


"Celestial Bodies" is a novel by Jokha Alharthi, the first Omani woman to have her novel translated into English. The book won the 2019 Man Booker International Prize, bringing global attention to Omani literature. Set in the village of al-Awafi, the story weaves together the lives of three sisters and their families, exploring themes of love, marriage, tradition, and societal change in Oman.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview

The novel is a multi-generational family saga that explores the lives of the Al Awadhi family and their relationships with each other, as well as with the village and its customs. The narrative shifts between various characters and time periods, offering a rich tapestry of perspectives and experiences.


The story is set in the village of al-Awafi, a conservative and traditional community in Oman. The village serves as a microcosm of Omani society, with its customs, beliefs, and tensions. The setting provides a backdrop for the exploration of themes related to tradition, modernity, and the changing roles of women in society.

Main Characters

The novel features a diverse cast of characters, each offering a unique perspective on the unfolding narrative. Here are the main characters:

MayyaA gentle and introspective woman who marries Abdallah, a man who is in love with her sister.
AsmaMayya's sister, who also marries Abdallah due to familial and societal pressures.
AbdallahA merchant who marries both Mayya and Asma, and struggles with his own desires and obligations.
AishaMayya and Abdallah's daughter, who grows up in a rapidly changing society.
ZarifaA slave in the Al Awadhi household, whose story is intertwined with the family's fate.
SalimaThe matriarch of the Al Awadhi family, whose life experiences shape the family dynamics.

Story Points Over Chapters

Chapter 1-3

The novel introduces the Al Awadhi family, their relationships, and the dynamics within the village of al-Awafi. Mayya and Asma's marriages to Abdallah are central to these early chapters, laying the groundwork for the complex interconnections between the characters.

Chapter 4-6

The narrative delves into the lives of the daughters of Mayya and Abdallah, Aisha, and Khawla, as well as the experiences of Zarifa, the family's slave. These chapters explore the impact of societal changes and the evolving roles of women in the village.

Chapter 7-9

The story delves deeper into the personal struggles and desires of the characters, shedding light on their inner conflicts and the tensions arising from societal expectations and personal yearnings.

Chapter 10-12

The narrative reaches a turning point as the lives of the characters intersect in unexpected ways, leading to revelations and transformations that have far-reaching consequences for the Al Awadhi family.

Main Events

  1. Mayya and Asma's marriages to Abdallah.
  2. The experiences of Aisha and Khawla as they navigate the changing landscape of the village and society.
  3. The revelations and transformations that impact the Al Awadhi family's dynamics.

Themes and Insights

Tradition vs. Modernity

The novel delves into the tension between traditional values and the forces of modernity, as seen through the lives of the characters and the broader shifts within Omani society. The clash between old customs and contemporary influences shapes the characters' choices and aspirations.

Gender and Marriage

The portrayal of marriage and the roles of women in "Celestial Bodies" offers a nuanced exploration of gender dynamics within a traditional society. The novel examines the impact of societal expectations on women's lives and the ways in which individuals navigate these expectations.

Family and Community

The interconnectedness of family and community is a central theme in the novel. The Al Awadhi family's experiences are intertwined with the village's traditions and values, highlighting the collective nature of identity and belonging.

Power and Oppression

The novel sheds light on power dynamics and the experiences of marginalized individuals, such as Zarifa, whose story reflects the broader themes of oppression and resilience.

Reader's Takeaway

"Celestial Bodies" offers a compelling and insightful exploration of Omani society, tradition, and the evolving roles of women. Through its richly drawn characters and interwoven narratives, the novel invites readers to contemplate the complexities of personal and societal change, as well as the enduring influence of tradition on individual lives.


Jokha Alharthi's "Celestial Bodies" is a masterful work that captures the intricacies of Omani culture and society through its engaging storytelling and rich character development. The novel's exploration of tradition, gender, and family dynamics resonates with readers, offering a thought-provoking and immersive reading experience that lingers long after the final page.

Celestial Bodies FAQ

  1. What is the genre of 'Celestial Bodies'?

    Celestial Bodies is a novel that falls into the genre of literary fiction.

  2. Who is the author of 'Celestial Bodies'?

    Jokha Alharthi is the author of 'Celestial Bodies'.

  3. What is the setting of 'Celestial Bodies'?

    The novel is set in the village of al-Awafi in Oman, and spans multiple generations of a family.

  4. What are some themes explored in 'Celestial Bodies'?

    Themes in the novel include the impact of history and tradition on individuals, the role of women in society, and the complexities of family relationships.

  5. Has 'Celestial Bodies' won any awards?

    Yes, 'Celestial Bodies' won the 2019 Man Booker International Prize, making Jokha Alharthi the first Omani author to win the prestigious award.