Exiled from an impoverished Russian childhood by her desperate mother in order to give her a new life, Lili is sold to become a wife-in-training—ultimately purchased by a Moroccan man for whom she feels nothing but hatred. When their treacherous relationship explodes on a remote road in the conflict-torn Sahara, Lili pitches herself into what she hopes will be the end of this miserable life—only to reemerge into an oasis of inscrutable characters that is desired by hostile forces for the secrets buried under its sands.
Blistered and barefoot in her torn gown, Lili brazenly stands six-feet tall in front of her rescuers, who can only assume that she is either an angel or the mythical djenni, come to destroy their haven. But Midhat, the putative owner of the oasis sees her for what she is: a commodity worth owning long enough to use for his own advancement. As Lili slowly pieces together the events and personalities flying around her, she also mulls over her past misfortunes and yearns for what she calls her “third death,” the one that will erase for good the creature she has become at the hands of Madame Mer, a cunning flesh monger. As the daily intrigues and secret betrayals of her tiny outpost of humanity become clearer, Lili discovers that the only way out is to find a way back into the world through these similarly fractured souls.
With cinematic scope and grace, Laureen Vonnegut’s debut moves effortlessly from the cold of Russia to the depths of the Bosporus, to the cacophonous markets of Casablanca and the sandy, shimmering confines of the oasis. Exotic, mesmeric, and entirely captivating, Oasis is a fever dream of a novel—and a modern tale worthy of Scheherazade.