Abdul-Baki’s (Sands of Zulaika, 2007, etc.) novel explores the highs and lows of a marriage rocked by tragedy and infidelity.
After Joy and Richard Amis’ baby is stillborn, they travel to Granada, Spain, to try and recover from the loss. However, it doesn’t hold the cure for what’s ailing their marriage. As they grow apart emotionally, Joy seeks adventure and escape, while Richard seeks comfort in Belinda Bericini, a woman who’s remarkably similar to Joy is some ways. The marriage slowly disintegrates and finally dissolves when Joy discovers Richard’s affair. Three years later, though, they reconnect in Istanbul and rekindle their relationship. Then Richard divulges one last secret: He has a daughter from his time with Belinda, although the affair is now long over. It turns out that Belinda is dying, and she wants Richard and Joy to raise the child. After Joy meets Belinda, she must reconcile herself with the idea of becoming a mother through such unconventional means. Richard and Joy’s turbulent relationship is an engrossing and sometimes painfully intimate study of a marriage interrupted. Over the course of the story, the characters take lusciously described jaunts to Spain, Turkey, and Tunisia; the unique magic of travel is the golden thread that ties this work together. The characterization, however, is uneven. Belinda essentially exists for the sole purpose of giving Joy and Richard what they want and to dispense New-Age–style philosophy: “The only thing permanent in the universe is its transience.” She’s a vehicle for other characters’ growth but not one in her own right. By contrast, Joy is the emotional core of the novel, experiencing the full spectrum of human feeling. Readers will understand her pain as she deals with the long-lasting consequences of an affair.
An often beautifully written work that lays its characters low with grief and lifts them high with the bliss of travel.