Book of the Week: Sister of Saidnaya by Rose Ann Kalister

Set in the 1900s, Sister of Saidnaya revolves around a young Syrian, Nadra, who migrates to America with her parents and baby sister at the age of twelve.

Once in America, the family has no difficulty settling in and Nadra’s father sets up a business which is moderately successful; at least for a migrant family.

Everything is not all rosy, however. Living in a period when women were expected to stay at home while their husbands went to work, Nadra finds herself rebelling against societal expectations when she is married off to John, an immigrant like herself.

John’s laid-back attitude as well as the hostility from his mother further complicate things, and Nadra finds herself struggling to maintain the home front while trying to achieve the independence her heart longs to attain irrespective of societal expectations of her.

I found Sister of Saidnaya to be quite fresh and original, and the doses of irreverence sprinkled at various points in the book made it even more entertaining.

Sister of Saidnaya deals with cultural issues like family, religion, marriage and societal expectations of women. It does drag at some point in the middle, but towards the end it becomes quite difficult to put down.

I also like the way John and Nadra’s issues were finally resolved; I had expected a different ending but the author deliberately decided to surprise readers, I think.

Readers who love learning about new cultures will definitely enjoy this book as the author incorporated quite a number of words from the Syrian language and made references to Syrian food as well.

Status: Recommended, especially for lovers of historical novels.

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