Dear Diana Abu-Jaber,
This book is amazing. Spellbinding, memorizing, haunting, unbelievable. I cannot say enough about this story. It's probably been eight years since I first read this story and I've read it from cover to cover at least eight times since then. My copy's tattered cover shows my love for this story. As you can see, I sing the praises of this story and want the world to know about this incredible book.
When I got to Westfield State, I found as an Elementary Education major, you needed to pick a minor. In hindsight, I should have picked Reading as it would probably help me in my career now. But I was originally an English major and a part of me didn't want to let that go. So I choose a Liberal Arts Minor with a concentrate in English Lit (nice and simple huh?). I love reading, I love talking about books and I love finding new stories that come with English majors. I love writing opinion pieces and comparative essays. I love arguing a point in class. And yes, I see how much of a nerd this makes me, but what can I do, I love books. I'm pretty sure it was my Junior year, possibly my Sophomore year, I was taking a series of combination English Lit and Women Studies classes (I can see the feminazi comments forming in your brain. I was one and proud of it). These were awesome classes that focused on women writers and their women heroines. Now, like most English majors and probably college students in general, in the beginning of the semester I was on top of my reading assignments. Went home, did the reading, wrote the comments, had notes ready for class, no problem. Now by say, two or three months in, I'm in my car in between classes just starting the pages due in about an hour. Excuses aside, it just became a fact of life. I had already read two great books Housekeeping and The Hundred Secret Senses and really enjoyed both of them. So when it came time to read Crescent, I was sitting in my car on a rainy day and all I had to do was read Chapter 1 and 2 for class. I don't know why I remember where I was and what I was like when I first read this story, but I do. Maybe it's because this book is so beautiful. I remember finishing Chapter 2 and I couldn't wait to go on, but I had to go to class. This book I read not like an assignment, but something I was actually going to read to enjoy.
This book is a beautiful flow of prose. It's intoxicating. When you read about Sirine and Han in the pool, under the stars with a glowing party reception around them, it's like reading about casting magic spells or putting people under trances. Every part of the story feels like there is a magical undertone in our everyday life around us. The fantasy story that her Uncle weaves into the story just adds to the mysticism. But the strongest connection to magic is Sirine and her food. As if she can bewitch people with her cooking, the stories about how people react to her cooking feel like realistic fiction and fantasy at the same time. I do feel that sometimes you can feel something in someones cooking. If they cook with love, you can taste it. If they cook in pain, you can taste that too, as the characters do in this story as well. I'd say it is something like the movie Simply Irresistible, but that's not a very good movie and this is a fantastic book.
There is a strong middle eastern element to this story that if you are of that heritage I'm sure you connect to, but as someone who isn't, I connected to it just as well. It was very interesting to see how Iraq is portrayed in this story in comparison to what we see of it today. It is almost a character on how it pulls people back and the history it holds, but it's not held up on a pedestal. It is realistic with how fighting destroys families and what it is like to try and live in a place constantly being bombed. It is a very important part of the story, but nothing something that drags it down or makes it a story that tries to preach anti-war sentiments. Its adds a sadness to the story that balances out the happiness and love. Like adding salt to your dessert recipes, it just makes it better without taking over completely.
When I first read this story, I was in college and a completely different person than I am now. I have read this story through different phases in my life and find it enchanting in every light. Yes, in a way, it is a romance story, but it's not the insepid, vapid, grocery store Fabio stories we associate with that genre. It's more like a story of a women and a man, sadness, pain, the past, food, friends and what it means to be who you really are. Sometimes I wish I could really visit these characters at Um-Nadia's cafe and to me that is the showing of a really, really great story.
Crescent: A Novel