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Review: Saffron Dreams, Shaila Abdullah

Words cannot describe Arissa Illahi’s grief when her husband dies in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center.  The videotape sitting on her dresser doesn’t cease to remind her that they were due to have their baby’s first ultrasound, and she never imagined raising her child alone.  Arissa also finds her husband’s unfinished novel, a project that powered her husband through his life and now must help propel Arissa through her grief.

Saffron Dreams is such a moving book.  Arissa’s grief is portrayed beautifully and is extremely touching.  I could almost feel how much pain she was suffering, certainly enough to hope that nothing of its like ever touches me.  Married only two years and left pregnant, Arissa has to rely on her in-laws, people she didn’t really know until her husband died, but who left their own lives to help her fix her own.  Her slow recognition of what matters in life is admirable and her journey constituted an emotional but worthwhile read.

Abdullah’s writing is smooth and beautiful, too:

The brush fell from my guilty hands, landing on the floor with a tired thud.  I stepped back as if struck and looked at the picture in mad fixation.  Staring back at me from the canvas, behind the dull last strokes that failed to hide the subject, were entwined towers engulfed in reddish blue smoke.  And in the midst of the smoldering slivers was the face of a forlorn and lost child.  – p. 6

So much of the book is conveyed right there.  We know what Arissa is feeling and what she’s trying to tell us.

I also found the book pinpointed many important and significant issues that followed the attacks.  Arissa is a Muslim, but she can’t understand why other Muslims would do such a thing, when it’s not really a part of her faith; she hates that news reporters lump them in together and ask her how she feels about being betrayed by one of her own kind; she experiences religious hatred when she wears her headscarf after the attacks and finally removes it to give her son a better chance at a normal life.  She not only has to adjust to her changing life but a changing world and fit in a place for herself when she’s faced with so much discrimination.  I felt that the author here built a strong and understandable character, flawed and human but someone the reader can still root for, with a journey to self-discovery that was still compelling and touching.

I really enjoyed Saffron Dreams. In its pages I found a character to care about, a story to enjoy, and issues to think about.  Highly recommended.

I am an Amazon Associate. I received this book for free from the author for review.

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