Muslim-American in “Saffron Dreams”

“Saffron Dreams,” is about letting go and learning to live despite every challenge life brings.  It’s about the strength of women and relationships.  It’s about the experience of women left behind in the 9/ll Twin Towers/World Trade Center terrorist attack.  And, it’s about the Muslim woman’s experience in America. 

Ms Abdullah has a big order to fill, and she comes shining through like a bird of paradise!  I loved this book for so many reasons, it will be difficult to convey them to you, so you’ll ultimately just have to read the book for yourself to understand.  I had to keep reminding myself that it was a novel and not a memoir…looking back again and again at the gorgeous cover and searching the eyes of the beautiful Pakistani woman for clues of the inner soul of such a writer.

The main character, Arissa, is a young woman who was born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan. After having survived a home of material wealth and non-existent maternal love, Arissa becomes wed in a traditional “arranged marriage.”  Surprisingly, this marriage is to a young man she had previously met on a trip to New York visiting relatives!  Fortune seemed to be with them from the beginning.  On the flip side of that fortune, however, rests a bad omen flung at them by a seer woman who predicts that the young husband will dance with fire.  Arissa and Faizan also have dreams of flames and smoke, but set these things aside and ignore them.  Of course, these omens find their fulfillment as Faizan is killed in the 9/11 World Trade Center attack.

We learn along the way such interesting information as Muslim life in the everyday workings of the kitchen cookery (recipes are included), the different meanings of the veils the women wear, the landscape and gardens of Pakistan, and the role saffron plays in the life of Arissa. I will never look at or smell Night Blooming Jasmine in quite the same way again.  Arissa is an artist, writer, observer of the world, and faithful woman.  Her agony is quietly and honestly shared with us.

Ms Abdullah knows grief and heartbreak.  Her novel tells us truly the pain of loss and the redemptive qualities that keep one living despite them.  I was widowed at a young age with young children so I speak from experience, when I say that this book conveys the feelings and experiences I had so profoundly and gently that it was shocking to me.  I was moved by Ms Abdullah’s gift for giving life to her characters.

I learned that women and widows are the same no matter what their religion or culture.  I learned that not all Muslims are terrorists. I knew that children can save you, but was delighted to see that Arissa found that gift.  That family can hold you up but can’t save you.  It was good to know that somebody else unknown to you can have the same experiences and live to tell about it.    

 Please do yourself a favor and read this wonderful book.  It will help you know how it feels to be a widow of the 9/11 attack….  It is a gorgeous and poetic book with an abundance of truth and beauty for everyone who loves fine literature.    I would love to hear how you like it.

Your Bookish Dame

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