Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Book Review: My Accidental Jihad by Krista Bremer

Normally lyrical is a word that makes me run away screaming if I read it on a dust jacket, so luckily I didn't read it here, as I loved Ms. Bremer's writing, and I would describe it as lyrical.

A California surfer chick, Krista eventually decides to be an adult and she gets into grad school at UNC and relocates to Chapel Hill. While on her morning run, she meets Ismail who is kind and fun and interesting, and unlike any man she has ever dated. He's fifteen years older than her, from Lybia, and grew up heartbreakingly poor. Nevertheless, the odd couple kits it off. And then decisions are accelerated when Krista unexpectedly ends up pregnant, not long into their relationship. A "jihad" is a struggle, and any marriage that involves this much of a culture clash would naturally be a struggle. And like most of us, her life happened rather accidentally. She never planned to fall in love with a middle eastern man, a Muslim. But they're making it work.

I have never read such beautiful descriptions of love. I was so impressed by how she really captured the feeling of safety and trust that must go along with it, the acceptance and understanding despite the differences and misunderstandings. I envy her and I wanted to melt into her words.

The part of the book where they go to Lybia for several weeks to visit Ismail's family was the most memorable but also had the most different affect tonally. Despite being completely surrounded at all times, never alone, she also felt very lonely as she was unable to communicate, and due to the division of genders, Ismail was rarely able to translate for her. The culture clash was much more obvious here, as their roles completely reversed and she became the outsider, the one who didn't fit in.

In the end, given the vast differences that she and her husband make work, it makes most other marital disagreements pale in comparison. It is a hopeful book, as one can easily think, if they can make it, anyone can! And it truly attests to the power of love to make difficult things workable (not make them go away). I loved this thoughtful and powerful memoir.

I bought this book at my local independent bookstore, Park Road Books.

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