A timeless story of forbidden love set against a Saudi Arabian backdrop.
This intriguing work of historical fiction begins in the city of Jeddah in 1978. A single woman named Fawzia Bughaidan pursues a forbidden relationship with a young man named Hisham in secret. When her sister Ibtisam discovers this and confronts her, Fawzia must choose between her love for Hisham and her fear of repercussions. After tragedy strikes during a family trip to Mecca, she finds healing in a new friendship with an old woman named Salma al-Shamaali. Looking back to 1917, Salma tells Fawzia of the long, arduous, and adventurous journey of her own life. She was also tempted by forbidden love as a young woman, and when her father found out about it, she was forced to marry her abusive cousin. When his temper made her fear for her life, she and her servant girl sought refuge, traveling hundreds of miles across the deserts and mountains of Saudi Arabia dressed as men. Salma’s memorable journey and the lessons that she learned along the way give Fawzia the inspiration that she needs to move forward—and to finally decide what to do about Hisham. Campbell’s masterful debut novel delivers a story that matches up flawlessly with real-life aspects of Middle Eastern culture, geography, and history. The characters are deeply developed, and their stories intertwine with true events that readers may be unaware of, such as the 1918 flu epidemic and the 1979 Grand Mosque siege. The storytelling transports the audience to a foreign place and time with vivid details and timeless themes. As the well-paced plot moves forward, readers may nearly forget about its destination because they’re so wrapped up in the journey.
A mesmerizing Middle Eastern tale to be savored from beginning to end.