Title: The Syrian Virgin
Author: Zack Love
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Political, Historical
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Anissa is traumatized by the most brutal conflict of the 21st Century: the Syrian Civil War. In 2012, Islamists in Homs terrorize a Syrian-Christian community and destroy everything that a young woman holds dear. Narrowly escaping death, Anissa restarts her devastated life as a college student in NY. She is bewildered and lost -- a virgin in every sense.
But despite her inexperience with men and life in the United States, Anissa is quickly drawn to two powerful individuals: Michael Kassab, the Syrian-American leader working to found the first Mideast Christian state, and Julien Morales, her Columbia University professor who runs a $20 billion hedge fund.
Complicating matters, Michael is still attached to his ex-girlfriend and Julien is the most sought after bachelor in Manhattan (and has hidden demons even his therapist can't extract). Anissa's heart and her communal ties pull her in different directions, as she seeks hope and renewal in a dark world.
WARNING: This book is about a young woman's difficult journey: her escape from Syria's Civil War, her transition to a new a country, and the relationships that she forms along the way, including her romantic interests in two very different men. The story is set against the backdrop of the Syrian Civil War and makes reference to violent acts, sometimes in detail. There is some occasional profanity and a few scenes that depict sexual intimacy. Accordingly, the recommended minimum age for readers is 16. The novel might be compared to books like "The Diary of Anne Frank" or "The Kite Runner."
The story follows Anissa (Inas in Arabic) and how she rebuilds her life after traumatic experiences. Through her, we learn about the worsening situation in Syria and her father’s plans to have her leave for America to study and escape the violence. The beginning had me crying first from joy when Anissa received a Syriac cross that was passed down from mother to daughter in her family. The moment her mother gave it to her, I was crying. It was such a beautiful moment.
“And you can do far more for us from America than you can from here, where you’re just another defenceless Christian. So if you really want to help, Inas, then you’ll go to the very best school you can get into and earn the best grades you can. And, God willing, I’ll be able to send you more money by the time you use up what is waiting for you. But take loans if you have to. Work if you must. Whatever happens, don’t let anything limit you...”
She is incredibly grown up and wise beyond her years. The struggles she faces makes you appreciate what you have and the good fortunes that we take for granted. My favourite quote has to be when Mr. Love refers to Theodore Herzl. The quote is, “If you will it, it is no dream.” Words to live by.
But have no fear, it isn’t all serious. Mr. Love balances the issues in Syria with a romance. A love triangle to be exact. Two older men *sigh*. Michael Kassab, Syrian-American leader working to found the first Mideast Christian state. Black hair, deep brown eyes, five-o-clock shadow and fit and trim. And Julien Morales, Anissa’s Columbia University professor who runs a $20 billion hedge fund. Olive coloured skin, dark eyes, salt and pepper hair and slim physique.
Another favourite quote comes from Julien, during a therapy session, after being asked if his acts of compassion and kindness restore his balance:
“To some extent. Because I then remember that there is goodness in me and I’m acting on it. And that, in turn, reminds me that such goodness exists in others, and that the world can’t be that bad.”
Mr. Love tackles contemporary issues with sensitivity and poise. He gives each of us food for thought. It gives us the opportunity to look long and hard at the events taking place in the world. His powerful writing is skilful and artistic which allows him to effortlessly blend religion, politics and romance into a seamless tale. Mr. Love should be extremely proud and pleased with this book. I’m only devastated that it has a cliffhanger! So many questions to answer and uncertainties but it mirrors life and how things can end without a resolution. The only thing that makes it better? Mr. Love must write another book! So I’m extremely excited for the second instalment and can’t wait to read it! But everyone should read The Syrian Virgin. It is a fantastic piece of writing.
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