Family conflicts are hard to bear, especially when someone is faced with a choice between her beliefs and her parents. At the beginning of her new book, Ayaan Hirsi Ali visits her estranged father in a London hospital, where he is dying of leukaemia. He is unable to speak but clearly pleased to see her, smiling so much that ‘the warmth of his gaze’ radiates through the room. Their old arguments – about the arranged marriage she fled, and about Islam – are put to one side and the meeting provides some solace when he dies a week later.
Hirsi Ali’s attempts at reconciliation, however, are far from over. Prompted by her cousin Magool, she gets the number of her mother’s mobile phone in Somalia. They talk about Hirsi Ali’s father and then the conversation takes just the turn she feared: ‘Do you pray and fast, and