Friday, June 19, 2009

Saffron Dreams: A Unique Love Story

Like many others, the unexpected, horrific events and images of September 11, 2001 are forever etched in my mind. I grew up in NY and still have relatives there, and had walked, for the last time, through the bottom of the World Trade Center Towers about a month before they burst into flames and collapsed. I approached this book with a touch of apprehension, although I was at the same time optimistic, having read positive reviews for Saffron Dreams beforehand. You'd think that a book about a young woman who loses her husband in that tragedy would be morose and depressing, but instead this story is engrossing and life-affirming. Once I picked it up I couldn't stop reading it.

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.


  1. Oh wow! This sounds fantastic! Thanks Suko!

  2. A great lesson against the all too common judging of people by their ethnicity, religion or politics. Understanding leads to respect and respect to love!

  3. Thanks, Susan for a very insightful review of Saffron Dreams. Hope you have fun reading Beyond the Cayenne Wall as well.

    Shaila Abdullah

  4. Thanks, Shaila. I'm looking forward to interviewing you soon.

  5. This book looks fantastic - I need to add it to my list of must-reads!


  6. This does sound like a good book. I love the cover, too.

  7. Beautiful review, Suko!
    Looks like an important, beautiful story.
    Thank you!


  8. Thank you all for your comments. Please stop by again for an interview with Shaila Abdullah.

  9. This book does sound so good! I'm off to read your author interview.

  10. This book sounds very very good. Will come back definitely for the interview.



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