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A Word for Love: A Novel
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Published:
Penguin Publishing Group 2017
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Description
"A paean to unabashed, unbridled love."  —Khaled Hosseini, New York Times-bestselling author of The Kite Runner

A mesmerizing debut set in Syria on the cusp of the unrest, A Word for Love is the spare and exquisitely told story of a young American woman transformed by language, risk, war, and a startling new understanding of love.



It is said there are ninety-nine Arabic words for love. Bea, an American exchange student, has learned them all: in search of deep feeling, she travels to a Middle Eastern country known to hold the "The Astonishing Text," an ancient, original manuscript of a famous Arabic love story that is said to move its best readers to tears. But once in this foreign country, Bea finds that instead of intensely reading Arabic she is entwined in her host family's complicated lives—as they lock the doors, and whisper anxiously about impending revolution. And suddenly, instead of the ancient love story she sought, it is her daily witness of a contemporary Romeo and Juliet-like romance—between a housemaid and policeman of different cultural and political backgrounds—that astonishes her, changes her, and makes her weep. But as the country drifts toward explosive unrest, Bea wonders how many secrets she can keep, and how long she can fight for a romance that does not belong to her. Ultimately, in a striking twist, Bea's own story begins to mirror that of "The Astonishing Text" that drew her there in the first place—not in the role of one of the lovers, as she might once have imagined, but as the character who lives to tell the story long after the lovers have gone.

With melodic meditation on culture, language, and familial devotion. Robbins delivers a powerful novel that questions what it means to love from afar, to be an outsider within a love story, and to take someone else's passion and cradle it until it becomes your own.
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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
01/17/2017
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780698183377
ASIN:
B01ESI3PR4
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Emily Robbins. (2017). A Word for Love: A Novel. Penguin Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Emily Robbins. 2017. A Word for Love: A Novel. Penguin Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Emily Robbins, A Word for Love: A Novel. Penguin Publishing Group, 2017.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Emily Robbins. A Word for Love: A Novel. Penguin Publishing Group, 2017. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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Date Added:
Jun 12, 2018 15:11:49
Date Updated:
Dec 06, 2020 02:40:22
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title
A Word for Love
fullDescription
"A paean to unabashed, unbridled love."  —Khaled Hosseini, New York Times-bestselling author of The Kite Runner

A mesmerizing debut set in Syria on the cusp of the unrest, A Word for Love is the spare and exquisitely told story of a young American woman transformed by language, risk, war, and a startling new understanding of love.



It is said there are ninety-nine Arabic words for love. Bea, an American exchange student, has learned them all: in search of deep feeling, she travels to a Middle Eastern country known to hold the "The Astonishing Text," an ancient, original manuscript of a famous Arabic love story that is said to move its best readers to tears. But once in this foreign country, Bea finds that instead of intensely reading Arabic she is entwined in her host family's complicated lives—as they lock the doors, and whisper anxiously about impending revolution. And suddenly, instead of the ancient love story she sought, it is her daily witness of a contemporary Romeo and Juliet-like romance—between a housemaid and policeman of different cultural and political backgrounds—that astonishes her, changes her, and makes her weep. But as the country drifts toward explosive unrest, Bea wonders how many secrets she can keep, and how long she can fight for a romance that does not belong to her. Ultimately, in a striking twist, Bea's own story begins to mirror that of "The Astonishing Text" that drew her there in the first place—not in the role of one of the lovers, as she might once have imagined, but as the character who lives to tell the story long after the lovers have gone.

With melodic meditation on culture, language, and familial devotion. Robbins delivers a powerful novel that questions what it means to love from afar, to be an outsider within a love story, and to take someone else's passion and cradle it until it becomes your own.
reviews
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        October 3, 2016
        In Robbins’s debut novel, unrest grows in Syria as an American student there becomes involved in a forbidden love
        triangle. Bea is as enamored of the Arabic language as she is with the idea of falling in love. Once in Syria, she is desperate to read a near-mythic ancient love poem referred to as “The Astonishing Text,” in the hopes of having a rapturous experience reading it in its mother tongue. The content of that text—a besotted poet longs for his estranged beloved, while a shepherd befriends him and acts as keeper of his poems—runs parallel to Bea’s experiences, in which she falls for a policeman who in turn falls for the maid of her host family, and she becomes the carrier of his love letters to the maid. While the love story intensifies, so too does the situation in Syria, affecting the patriarch of Bea’s host home, who is viewed as a dissident by the government. Robbins weaves a story complete with exquisite sentences, including descriptions of the Syrian landscape: “the winds swept up the desert in the evenings... there were dark smudges of smoke like birds on the horizon.” Bea’s fascination with language and the unique characteristics of Arabic add delightful layers to the text. This is a rich, understated novel that offers an absorbing story full of longing, political intrigue, and the beauty found outside the familiar.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        October 15, 2016
        In Robbins' debut, an American student of Arabic gets lessons in love and loss when she goes to study in the Middle East.Bea has come to an unnamed foreign city to read an ancient text "that made everyone who read it cry, it was that astonishing." It tells the story of a Bedouin named Qais and his doomed love for the beautiful Leila, so when she hears a member of the family she is living with describe the blond policeman she glimpses in the station across the street from their apartment as "a real Qais," Bea is intrigued. She has fallen in love with Arabic, we sense from allusions skillfully planted in the early chapters, because her life in America seems too safe and devoid of deep feeling. She has a crush on handsome Adel (the policeman) before she's even met him, but when it becomes clear that he's interested in the family's maid, Nisrine--who has a husband and son back home in Indonesia--Bea passively accepts his choice. This is characteristic of her behavior throughout the novel, as Bea describes Madame; her husband, Baba; their three children; Nisrine; and Adel as though they were characters in an exotic play she was observing rather than participating in. She maintains this oddly distanced stance, preoccupied with abstract musings such as the number of words for love in Arabic, even as events grow menacing. The deteriorating political situation poses a particular threat to Baba, an anti-government activist who has already served 10 years in jail, and Adel must face the wrath of his powerful father, outraged by the discovery that he is in love with a foreign woman. Bea is wracked with guilt when she realizes that her American naivete has contributed to the family's woes, but in the time-honored fashion of privileged Westerners, she doesn't seem able to do more than feel bad about it. Oh-so-sensitive apercus voiced in finely wrought language merely add to the general air of unreality in this well-intentioned but curiously unmoving novel.

        COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from October 15, 2016
        Bea has seen firsthand that real life can mirror fiction. An American student of Arabic in an unnamed Middle Eastern country that is on the verge of revolution, Bea is on a mission to get her hands on the world-famous astonishing text, a legendary story of star-crossed lovers Qais and Leila and the good Samaritan who kept their ill-fated adventures alive. In her host family's small home, however, Bea is witness to two life-changing events that unfold along parallel tracks: an enduring, illicit romance between Nisrine, the Indonesian housemaid, and Adel, a young policeman stationed next door; and the host family's patriarch's increasing involvement in political dissent, actions that might carry serious consequences. The themes here seem ripe for melodrama, but Robbins' promising debut steers clear of cloying sentimentality even if at times the similarities between Bea and the good Samaritan of lore feel forced. Still, Bea is a winning choice as a narrator, lending the story vulnerability and authenticity, especially because she is such an empathetic, and often helpless, spectator. With an impressive economy of words, Robbins, formerly a Fulbright Fellow in Syria, tells a story that proves that themes of love, loss, and freedom truly can transcend borders and time.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2016, American Library Association.)

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        September 1, 2016

        While hoping to discover an ancient Arabic love story, an American exchange student in the Middle East bears witness to an ill-starred contemporary romance between a housemaid and a policeman of different cultural and political backgrounds. A much-touted debut and Day of Dialog Editors' Picks title.

        Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        October 1, 2016

        Bea is an American student studying Arabic in an unnamed Middle Eastern country (presumably Syria). As she faces roadblocks in gaining university admission and access to an "astonishing text" at the national library, she becomes immersed in the life of the family with whom she boards. The father, Baba, is secretly involved in antigovernment activities, and the family's Indonesian maid, Nisrine, has a courtly love affair with policeman Adel. As Bea recounts Adel and Nisrine's story, it parallels the legend of Qais and Leila, which originates with the "astonishing text." By design, Bea's role in the story is more that of an observer than a protagonist, and through much of the novel she remains something of a blank. The lack of specificity about the country and time frame of the setting (although we know it's contemporary because the characters have cell phones) seems like a bit of a shortcut on the author's part, though it helps keep the focus on the personal story. VERDICT In the end, this debut serves as a meditation on the many meanings and forms of love, and how words and texts can be used both to love and to harm. [See Prepub Alert, 7/25/16.]--Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis

        Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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"A paean to unabashed, unbridled love."  —Khaled Hosseini, New York Times-bestselling author of The Kite Runner

A mesmerizing debut set in Syria on the cusp of the unrest, A Word for Love is the spare and exquisitely told story of a young American woman transformed by language, risk, war, and a startling new understanding of love.



It is said there are ninety-nine Arabic words for love. Bea, an American exchange student, has learned them all: in search of deep feeling, she travels to a Middle Eastern country known to hold the "The Astonishing Text," an ancient, original manuscript of a famous Arabic love story that is said to move its best readers to tears. But once in this foreign country, Bea finds that instead of intensely reading Arabic she is entwined in her host family's complicated lives—as they lock the doors, and whisper anxiously about impending revolution. And suddenly, instead of the ancient love story she sought, it...
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