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Light of the Desert Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
I was captivated from page one.
But what makes “Light of the Desert” so special is the subject matter and how it’s dealt with. The assimilation of Middle Eastern societies into the modern world has been a rocky one, to say the least, and this book expresses the conflicts that have arisen at a very personal level.
Lucette Walters puts us right at the crux of the Islam vs. the West conflict by presenting a young woman, Noora, who comes from a wealthy family from Jordan. She loves her family and her culture, for both have bathed her in nothing but love and security.
The book is good at showing the graceful traditions of the desert societies and all they have to offer the world, especially in a sequence when Noora lives with a Bedouin tribe in the desert for several months and absorbs their understanding of life: “We have lived before. Some things our deep mind remembers. The earth is filled with treasures, as is the night sky. A feast for the eyes.Nourishment for the soul. It all began out there. We come from there; we were made from those stars. If you watch them for a long time, they become part of you again. Part of your heart and you are never alone.”
But being wealthy, Noora is also educated in London and travels extensively in the West (as well as the Far East). She’s not provincial or narrow-minded. But she believes in her faith and lives it as well as she knows how. She is not a rebel or a free thinker, and expects to be married off to a man she loves and live the same life as her mother while never experiencing another man in any way. The West hasn’t changed her into a different type of person.
However, Noora’s younger sister becomes jealous of her relationship to her fiancé and plots to steal him. And here the problems with the fundamentalist Middle Eastern culture arise. Her sister’s scheme leads to Noora’s appearing to be indecent publically (in a way that would not cause anyone in the West to bat an eye) and the aftermath is stunning, as well as certainly beyond anything her sister imagined. Noora’s father kills her for his family’s ‘honor’ – except that “In the face of disaster, an Angel always appears,” and thus we begin an incredible journey for the rest of the book.
“Light of the Desert” is a very hopeful book, with much wisdom. That wisdom lives inside of the characters’ souls and is expressed through their actions, but it is also occasionally condensed into lovely aphorisms that are apropos to the story: “You must follow the journey of your destiny;”“Don’t wait for your ship to come in. Swim out to it;” and “When you are ready, you will be able to feel your pain… without fear,” are just a few.
By the end, Noora has seen the best and the worst of both cultures. But the book doesn’t end in anger. Noora grows from her experiences: “Forgiveness is not easy, but it is something we must practice every day of our lives to live again.” And “You can only reach forgiveness through gratitude… Gratitude for your compassion for those who have done evil. And from that comes to strength to never let it happen again.”
But I didn’t love this book simply for its important message or even its exciting plot. Lucette Walters is simply a great writer. Every page sings with beautiful language and I was caught between the desire to read it as quickly as possible to find out what was going to happen next and wanting to read each page slowly to savor the poetry of it all.
And as a Beverly Hills physician with an exclusive concierge practice, I have noted increasing numbers of wealthy Middle Eastern patients coming to my office. I have found this book to be to be invaluable to understanding their experiences and perspectives, and I have recommended it to many of my colleagues.
Honor killing is a secret and ancient practice that exists among conservatives in Middle Eastern culture. This tradition allows men the right to kill their daughters or other female relatives without impunity if it is believed the woman has dishonored the family. Lucette Walters was very moved by a news account of an honor killing and researched the subject. The result was a strong desire to bring this horrendous act out into the open which she has done with her novel.
The main character in Light of the Desert is Noora Fendil, the favorite daughter of an influential Middle Eastern businessman. Noora is drugged and placed in a compromising situation by her jealous younger sister, Zaffeera. Fabricated evidence of Noora's "moral crime" is shown her father who attempts to restore the honor by drowning his daughter. A brother hauls his sister away, under the guise of burying her, and brings her back to life and Noora goes into hiding.
At one point in the plot the author hits heavy on the theme of forgiveness, using a wise woman name Ahna who gives this advice to Noora during her time of exile. "Forgiveness is not easy but it is something we must practice every day of our life, if we are to live again. You can only reach forgiveness through gratitude - gratitude for your life ... And compassion for those who have done evil. And from that comes the strength to never let it happen again."
I really enjoyed reading this fast-moving account of Noora and Zaffeera and of this ancient practice of honor killing that still exists today in the Middle East, Turkey, India, South Africa and in the U.S.
By Emory Daniels