Written by Pakistani-American author Shaila Abdullah, Saffron Dreams is a novel about a Muslim woman, Arissa Illahi, told in the first person narrative, and is part of the Reflections of America Series by Modern History Press, which explores multiculturalism in written form. Published in 2009, it reads like a memoir, but is a fictional story about a woman who's both a painter and a writer. Arissa leaves her native Pakistan to live in NY with her husband Faizan, who's a writer but waits tables to make ends meet. Expecting their first child, they are happy and hopeful about their dreams for the future, a future that is altered drastically on the morning of September 11, 2001, when Faizan goes to work at his job as a waiter in the World Trade Center but never returns home. Arissa's dreams are shattered.
Pregnant and alone, but supported by her in-laws and other family members, Arissa moves to Texas and attempts to get on with her life. Along with her grief, she's haunted by the way she's held responsible for the attacks of 9-11, simply because she's Muslim. This book deals sensitively with the issue of being Muslim at a time when all Muslims are blamed for the actions of a few terrorists. Another issue Arissa must contend with is having a child with multiple disabilities. This is handled well by the author, and we get a sense of Arissa's deep love for and dedication to her child.
Another strength of this novel is the relationship between Arissa and Faizan, which is depicted with skill and artistry. We feel Arissa's profound loss and equally deep love for her late husband. In addition to working as a writer and caring for her child, Arissa decides to complete the manuscript she's discovered, Faizan's unfinished book, his legacy, at the urging of her mother-in-law. More than anything else, Saffron Dreams is a beautiful love story, a love which endures and lives on, and grows even stronger as time passes.
As always, your comments are welcomed. Have you read Saffron Dreams or Beyond the Cayenne Wall, Shaila Abdullah's collection of short stories (which is now on my TBR list)? What other love stories do you recommend?
Special thanks to Kristina for sending me a copy of Saffron Dreams to review.