by Leila Aboulela
1999, 203 pp.
Sammar, (I believe it was pronounced 'Summer'), is a young widow working as an Arabic translator at a university in Aberdeen, Scotland. She has been grieving for several years over the loss of her husband who was killed in a car accident. She has a little boy but feels she is unable to care for him and leaves him with her mother-in-law in Sudan.
Faith plays an important part in Sammar's life, so when she starts to fall for Rae, her boss, she realizes it could never be. That is, unless he converts to Islam. Their relationship starts off slowly, just by talking on the telephone. I found this to be very real and touching. Many of my best conversations with my husband have been on the phone, and this was the first time (that I could recall, anyway), that I had found it portrayed in such a way in a book. The progression of the relationship and the issues of faith and belief are explored in the rest of the novel.
I really enjoyed Aboulela's writing. It was very tender and poignant. I found it easy to feel Sammar's grief. There were a few things I did dislike about Sammar's character, though. I really cannot imagine leaving a child behind like that for such an extended period of time. A few weeks perhaps, but not a few years! The writing was beautiful. However, in the last few pages of the book there were a few too many sentence fragments for my taste. I don't mind some, but it seemed a little excessive. I would definitely read another book by this author, though.
This is the author's first novel and was first published in the UK in 1999.