Saffron Dreams by Shaila Abdullah

Title: Saffron Dreams
Author: Shaila Abdullah
Publisher: Modern History Press; 1st edition (January 12, 2009)
Hardcover: 248 pages
Genre: Multicultural fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Arissa is born in an affluent family in Pakistan. She moves to New York when she marries Faizan who works in a restaurant in the World Trade Center. Arissa is very happy with her life, her husband and their future prospects. Also, she is 2 months pregnant. On 11th September 2001, with the attack on the world Trade Center, her whole world came crashing down along with the towers. Faizan is dead and the last rituals are performed without a body, her baby is deformed in her womb and will probably never live a full life. Arissa’s friends and in-laws help her move on. But she is alone and scared, scared of living her life without a companion and scared to raise a child with disabilities.

As Arissa is managing to live life each day, she is confronted with another dilemma, her religion. After 9/11, the way Muslims were viewed changed drastically. The horror of Terrorism reached people who never thought something like this would happen to them. The targets were the innocent Muslims. As Arissa tells someone,

“When you put all your potatoes in a sack, you should know they all have unique flavors. Some are rotten, some fresh. Just because they are clumped together doesn’t make then all the same.”

“They are not my people, but I don’t think you are smart enough to figure that out.”

Saffron Dreams is a journey of a young widow away from her homeland and in a country she has adopted. It’s a delicate subject and a book that handles a lot of sensitive issues without wanting to create a sensation. The writing was so raw and honest that I could feel Arissa’s pain seeping through the pages.

I did struggle through this book as I found it a little difficult to read, I even had tears in my eyes a couple of times, but the author’s simplistic and crisp writing style and Arissa’s struggle to find some hope in her chaotic life kept me reading and rooting for her. In the end, this book is not about 9/11, her husbands death, her child’s disabilities or even her religion. It’s about what binds us together even though we are from different homelands and different cultural backgrounds, which I believe is the crux of this book. Though not easy, it’s definitely something that deserves to be read.

Here are some of my favorite passages:

Why was there no fear in my heart? Probably because there was no more room in my heart for terror. When horror comes face-to-face with you and causes a loved one’s death, fear leaves your heart. In it’s place, merciful God places pain. Throbbing, pulsating, oozing pus, a wound that stays fresh and raw no matter how carefully you treat it. How can you be afraid when you have no one to be fearful for? The safety of your loved ones is what breads fear in your heart. They are the weak links in your life. Unraveled from them, you are fearless. You can dangle by a thread, hang from the rooftop. Bungee jump, skydive, walk a pole, hold your hand over the flame of a candle. Burnt, scalded, crashed, lost, dead, the only loss would be to your own self. Certain things you are not allowed to say or do. Defiant as I am, I say and do them anyway.

How do you end a story that’s not yours? Add another sentence where there is a pause? Infiltrate the story with a comma when really there should have been a period? Punctuate with an exclamation point where a period would have sufficed? What if you kill something breathing and breathe into something the author wanted to eliminate? How do you get inside the mind of a person who isn’t there? Fill the shoes of someone who will never fill his own?

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15 thoughts on “Saffron Dreams by Shaila Abdullah

    • oh no no no, it’s fiction. I’ve updated the post for the genre now. Thanks for poiting it out, I understand how it can be mistaken for a memoir.

  1. I’ve read a few other reviews of this book and have resisted reading it even though the reviews have been good. I just don’t know if I could read something so sad that would also remind me of such a horrifying time. Thanks for the review, though. I loved the passage from the book you included.

  2. It’s about what binds us together even though we are from different homelands and different cultural backgrounds . . .

    I really must read this book. Thank you for your wonderful review. Topics like this really interest me. And as you said, it really goes beyond cultural and homeland boundaries–it’s about all of us.

  3. This sounds like such a beautiful book. I have been eagerly trying to read books about the Middle East and I don’t think I’ve read anything specifically about Pakistanians yet. I really like what you say about how this book brings people from different cultures together–such an important thing.

  4. I like the potato adage … similar to “one bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bunch”. I wonder if it’s a common/old expression or one the author created.

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