“The madam of the house where I lived always said that if you can write, it means you have a clear conscience.”
Classic case of judging a book by its cover… I saw this one on the shelf at the library and I thought it was so pretty that I figured I would risk it and just read the book with no knowledge of what it was about. I normally would never do this but I may start- this one worked out great!
The story is set in Syria which was already out of my typical reading and we are looking from the perspective of Bea who is an American. She is studying abroad in the hopes of learning Arabic and reading “The Astonishing Text”, which is a very old and beautiful text about Qais and Leila (sort of like Romeo and Juliet). Bea wants to read the text and have it move her to tears so she can grow her heart and learn all she can about love.
The novel is written in very poetic and melodic form and so it feels a little disjointed at times but that drew me in more and more. I wanted to keep going to find out what was going to happen and how it would pan out. Bea’s time in Syria begins to resemble the astonishing text as she befriends Nisrine, an Indonesian maid, who falls in love with Adel, a policeman. Their love is forbidden as Nisrine is married and her husband is home in Indonesia with their son and Adel is “the enemy” as he is locking up members of the resistance. So many dynamics play out far beyond the love story and the description and wording is just beautiful the whole way through. The ending is absolutely heart breaking as one would expect from a book that champions tragic love stories but it was such an amazing experience the whole way through. I felt like I had a further education on love and it was so worth it.