Abdullah, Shaila. Saffron Dreams.
This is a quiet book about loss and grief, about hope and commitment, about cultural differences, and about our common humanity. It is, above all, a success story in the sense that living, in spite of all its difficulties, is a worthy challenge.
Arissa Illahi has had a childhood of privilege in Pakistan and is fortunate enough to marry the man she loves. Their brief marriage comes to an end, however, on September 11, when the twin towers flame and fall.
Heart-broken, Arissa must deal with the loss of her husband who worked in a restaurant in one of the towers and with the hate and anger that manifested itself against the Muslim community following the attacks.
With the help of her husband's parents, Arissa begins the long process of healing and re-formulating her life. The child she is expecting gives her the strongest reason to go on, but the strength and compassion of her in-laws provide the safety net she needs as she tries to cope with the loss of a beloved husband.
The author manages to tell this tale with such a delicate touch, never falling into the maudlin and never giving Arissa the powers of a superhero. Arissa is a deeply wounded woman who gradually gains the strength and confidence to accept the new direction of her life, but it is a struggle. Her courage is the quiet courage of the survivor.
I loved the relationship between Arissa and her husband's mother. The grieving of these two women, one who has lost a son and one who carries a son who will never know his father, provides an interesting study of loss and compassion.
Saffron Dreams addresses many serious problems (death of a loved one, prejudice, cultural differences, caring for a child with disabilities, and more), but in such a manner that allows us to see the ways human beings triumph over circumstances wrenched from their control and gradually find ways to re-adjust their dreams and move forward.
A beautifully written narrative that looks at the aftermath of Sept. 11 with a slightly different perspective, the book unfolds and blossoms with an unexpected tenderness while never denying the myriad effects of tragedy.
The author sent me this book, and I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to read and review it. Highly recommended.
Fiction. 2009. 232 pages.