After quitting her So-Cal beach-bum lifestyle to attend graduate school, Bremer found herself pregnant and impulsively married Ismail, an older Libyan man. Basing this book on her Pushcart Prize–winning essay, “My Accidental Jihad,” Bremer details her youthful Barbie-doll dreams of marriage and wealth and the sweetness of their newborn daughter and then bolts to the comparative ickiness of Ramadan. Ismail’s breath smells bad, for one thing, and his fasting makes him too tired to help around the house. Further, he doesn’t quite comprehend American celebrations, such as Easter and Christmas. “It was difficult for him to understand holidays untethered from meaning and drifting in an ocean of desire and delight.” A trip to Libya to meet Ismail’s family is nearly all dismal, with Bremer grousing about how uncomfortable she is. There’s no coffee, nowhere to go running, and so on. The book’s title refers not to her falling in love with a Muslim but her “own accidental jihad, forcing me to wrestle with my intolerance and self-absorption.” Readers with similar mind-sets will want to follow Bremer’s “love story.” --Eloise Kinney
From Kirkus Reviews
A moving, lyrical memoir about how an American essayist fell in love with a Libyan-born Muslim man and learned to embrace the life she made with him. Sun associate publisher Bremer was a wayward former California surfer girl just starting to build her life in North Carolina when she met Ismail. He was 15 years older than she and different from her in almost every possible way. Yet his gentle simplicity made her feel as though she could “finally exhale…and [open] up to [herself]” in ways she had not been able to with anyone else. When she unexpectedly became pregnant not long after they met, she faced a difficult choice: terminate the pregnancy and continue her pursuit of a promising career in journalism or keep the baby and accept Ismail’s heartfelt offer of marriage. Unable to resist the mysterious allure of the future she “never intended—or even knew how much [she] wanted,” Bremer chose to “stitch [their] mismatched lives together to make a family.” Among the many challenges she encountered was coming to terms with Ismail’s loving but traditionalist family in Tripoli. To them, she was a woman “weighed down by so much individualism, impatience, and desire.” Yet through her visits with them, she also learned to temper the Western individualism she came to realize had been the source of the “creeping despair that comes from doggedly chasing the elusive dream that women can be everything at once.” As she gradually came to accept a different way of living—and eventually, worshipping—in middle-class America, Bremer grew to appreciate Ismail, her extended family and the struggle they brought into her life more than she even imagined possible. A sweet and rewarding journey of a book.