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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Book Review: An Infidel in Paradise by S.J. Laidlaw

Title: An Infidel in Paradise
Author: S.J. Laidlaw
Publisher: Tundra Books
Published: February 2013
Editions: print and ecopy
Length: 272 pages
Source: Publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis: Set in Pakistan, this is the story of a teen girl living with her mother and siblings in a diplomatic compound. As if getting used to another new country and set of customs and friends isn't enough, she must cope with an increasingly tense political situation that becomes dangerous with alarming speed. Her life and those of her sister and brother depend on her resourcefulness and the unexpected help of an enigmatic Muslim classmate.


Review: 

Imagine what it would be like to be yanked away from all the things that you are familiar with and comfortable with, and having to start fresh at a new place. This is bad enough as a teen moving from one town to another. Now picture all that and instead of a new town, you are in a foreign country where you don't speak the language, you aren't familiar with the culture, and its natives hate you purely because you are a westerner: white, blonde, and blue-eyed. This is what Emma facing and she's not happy about it either.

With a mom who is a workaholic and a dad who is living back from where Emma is from with the young ex-maid of theirs, Emma feels lost, unloved, resentful, and angry. At the new international school, Emma befriends an American girl, Angie, who helps lighten the angst a little only to lose her quickly adding anew to the bitterness and anger towards everything, but mostly towards her parents for messing up her life. 

To add another straw to the camel's back, the boy Emma falls for (and he with her) is one she cannot have, they cannot be together. The racial and cultural and religious differences simply will not let that happen. Poor Emma is feeling sorry for herself with all of this, but the saving grace comes from the most unlikely source, her "enemy" aka "The Ice Princess", the boy's girlfriend and fiance. What? Fiance? Girlfriend? Yeah. Arranged marriage. There is nothing that can be done; it is an arranged marriage by both sets of parents and its part of that culture.

However, through that 'saving grace' in the form of charitable work, Emma finds focus and meaning in the sea of mess and misery. In the midst, she not only finds solace but comes to understand a great many things, albeit unintentionally. She learns that people are the same deep down, no matter the external factors. Within the heart, we all strive for the same things: peace, happiness, family, love. Although unintended, Emma inadvertently matures, even when surrounded by what she'd see as interminable problems and being in hell.

It is through the near death experience that she comes fully to understand and appreciate the important fact that above all else in the world, without your family, everything in the world is meaningless. It is the family that makes up who you are and what you are. When faced with the utmost, gravest danger, Emma fully connects with this fact and no matter what is going on in the world and in the family, they love you for who yo uar eand always will. They need you just as much as you need them.

Plenty of lessons learned in this book and a very good read.