The Last Watchman of Old Cairo

The Last Watchman of Old Cairo is a story told in three parts about a synagogue in Cairo and the Muslim family bound to protect it. The first storyline is that of the first young man in the family who became bound to protect the synagogue; the second is in current times – his descendant is the son of a Muslim man and a Jewish woman and is studying literature at Berkeley when he gets a package from his just-deceased father that he feels compelled to investigate; the third is a story of two sisters from Victorian England who are interested in Egyptian history and have come to the synagogue to study/rescue its documents.

I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the book, to be quite honest. It read like three interspersed short stories and they didn’t add meaning to each other. They were all fine – they’re not actively bad and the book was an enjoyable read – but there wasn’t a greater meaning to the three of them together.

The point the book is trying to make, if there is a point at all, is that the work must go on. You are not obligated to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it. In the book, it refers to the documents from the synagogue, in your life it could apply to your to-do list or keeping the house or any of a number of things. All you need to do is to keep it going. Whatever it is.