Losing Face: A Novel

George Haddad

Losing Face: A Novel
University of Queensland Press
3 May 2022

Losing Face: A Novel

George Haddad

Joey is young, indifferent. He’s drifting around Western Sydney unaware that his passivity is leading him astray. And then one day he is involved in a violent crime, one that threatens to upend his life entirely.

 Elaine, his grandmother, is a proud Lebanese woman with problems of her own. When Joey is arrested, she is desperate to save face and hold herself together. In her family, history repeats itself, vices come and go, and uncovering long-buried secrets isn’t always cathartic.

This gripping and hard-hitting novel reveals the richness and complexity of contemporary Australian life and tests the idea that facing consequences will make us better people.


Nineteen-year-old Joey is drifting along unsure where his life is headed. Right now, it involves shifts at the local supermarket, hanging with his best mate Kyri, and blowing his wages on booze, drugs and clothes. Joey’s entire life has unfolded in Western Sydney where he lives with his mum and younger brother Alex. Joey’s mum Amal and his grandmother Elaine are always on his back to do something with his life. Joey’s dad hasn’t been in the picture since he and Alex were young; the women won’t discuss how or why he’s not around. Joey doesn’t want to know, but Alex is curious. Amal and Elaine are torn between telling the boys the truth about their dad and reliving the humiliation his exit created for them within their tight-knit Lebanese community.

Losing Face is a gripping, heartfelt debut from George Haddad exploring family and identity and the challenge of self-acceptance. Joey is an authentic creation. When Joey becomes involved in a brutal crime, it throws his family’s lives into chaos. Amid this pressure, Joey is starting to grasp who he identifies as and desires, but isolation leaves him with no friends to talk to about this new understanding. Haddad’s writing is honest and raw, perfectly expressing what it feels like to be young and isolated and facing an uncertain future.

The age gap between Joey and his brother is small but Haddad uses it to flesh out their similarities and differences and to say something vital about human behaviour. Alex is curious, understanding, empathetic, still in school: the good son. Joey is listless, impulsive, and frustrated. Their emotional intelligence and understanding of consent, family and forgiveness are worlds apart. With Losing Face Haddad asks whether we can open ourselves up to those who want to make our lives better and what it takes to let go of the past.

Suzanne Steinbruckner is from Readings Carlton

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