A Scottish woman attempts to overcome abuse and molestation in hopes of opening up to true love after a series of devastating misfortunes.
As a child, Elizabeth is molested by her uncle, and her mother turns a blind eye. Elizabeth also grows up to be unlucky in love: She marries Ahmed, a cruel, hypocritical Muslim man who sexually abuses her as well, and they move together to the Persian Gulf. His treatment of her becomes a kind of prison, as she tries to adapt to his strict interpretation of Arab customs. The only things keeping her alive are her children, Alia and Mohammed, and her Russian friend, Katrina, who is also married to an Arab man. Katrina introduces Elizabeth to her husband’s friend, Darius, a Lebanese-French man who subsequently awakens Elizabeth to feelings of femininity and passion that she didn’t know her damaged body and soul could experience. After enjoying a short-lived affair, Darius falls terminally ill, which sets in motion Elizabeth’s liberation from Ahmed. Elizabeth must rebuild her life with her children in the Gulf without the financial support of Ahmed and without the love she experienced with Darius. Just when it seems that Elizabeth will never be able to let another man in, she meets Saif, a widower with a young daughter. Then, life becomes even more complicated: Saddam Hussein invades nearby Kuwait, causing Saif, an ammunitions specialist in the army, to leave. Blackwood compellingly expresses Elizabeth’s profound pain at being unable to trust or love anyone. Elizabeth is a strong, resilient female lead, but she’s still human—at one point, she tries to commit suicide when she suspects she’s ill and dying. The change of scenery from Scotland to the Gulf to Italy adds an interesting layer to the story, as Elizabeth must adapt to a new culture while also trying to stay true to her own morals. Her misfortune tends to drag at times, something even her unfailing hopefulness can’t combat. The details of her sexual abuse are handled carefully and in good taste, and there’s a satisfying conclusion, but her many hardships border on being gratuitous.
A convincing depiction of rediscovering trust and love in a shattered life.