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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Saffron Dreams

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.


  1. This sounds wonderful. I love it when authors don't rush their characters but let them unfold and slowly develop. Sometimes it's a little frustrating, the slow pace, especially when you are invested in the characters, but it is so much more rewarding and fulfilling whe you see the progression.

  2. This author is doing an event at my branch of the library in April I think. Your review makes me want to attend and read the book ahead of time. I'll add it to my list.

  3. What a beautifully written review, Jenclair. The author picked a good person to read and review her book. I'm looking forward to reading this.

  4. Nicole - It is a lovely book!

    Kay - Oh, I'm so envious that you will have the opportunity to meet the author! Do read the book and attend your library's event.

    booklogged - Thanks, Cheya. I've been so lucky this year in the review books I've been sent and in my reading in general!

  5. What an absolutely brilliant review, Jenclair! You really got the character and the story. Thanks for posting this.

    Kay, the event you are referring to is at the Spicewood Springs Library on May 12. This means you and I live very close to each other. I visit the library frequently with my 5 year old.
    Shaila Abdullah

    Saffron Dreams/Beyond the Cayenne Wall

  6. Great review! I am looking forward to reading stack of TBR is getting taller...

  7. Really enjoyed your review of this one. I hadn't heard of the book before but I'm adding this one to my radar!

  8. This sounds like a wonderful book, Jenclair. I really appreciate your review and recommendation. I think books coming from this particular perspective are important, especially in this day and age. Arissa sounds like a wonderfully developed character.

  9. Shaila - Thanks for stopping by! If you schedule any events in Louisiana, let me know!

    Samira - :) Makes you wonder doesn't it! My stacks and lists seem to have spontaneous regeneration.

    Iliana - Abdullah is from Austin; you may have the opportunity to attend one of her book talks!

    LF - It is a quiet book, but one that I won't soon forget. Her perspective is particularly interesting because it makes it so easy to identify with Arissa's situation.

  10. What a fantastic review! I am almost finished with this book and it is quite impressive.

  11. Tracee - I really enjoyed this book!

  12. Jenclair, what a beautiful review! I have had this book on my radar for a while now....will have to get myself a copy one of these days. Books like these are so important because they promote understanding and make us realize that while we may come with different tags culturally, we all experience sorrow and life's other emotions in a universal way because we all belong to the same race...the human race.

  13. Lotus - I liked it because the story is beautifully told, and the author didn't try to make high drama of some of the events (which were, on their own, dramatic enough), but concentrated on Arissa's gradual re-entry into a life that she helps shape.