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Review: As Long as the Lemon Tree Grows by Zoulfa Katouh

Title: As Long As the Lemon Tree Grows
Author: Zoulfa Katouh
Year published: 2022
Category: Adult fiction
Pages: 432 pages
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location: (my 2022 Google Reading map): Syria, Canada

SummaryA love letter to Syria and its people, As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow is a speculative novel set amid the Syrian Revolution, burning with the fires of hope, love, and possibility. Perfect for fans of The Book Thief and Salt to the Sea.

Salama Kassab was a pharmacy student when the cries for freedom broke out in Syria. She still had her parents and her big brother; she still had her home. She had a normal teenager’s life. 
Now Salama volunteers at a hospital in Homs, helping the wounded who flood through the doors daily. Secretly, though, she is desperate to find a way out of her beloved country before her sister-in-law, Layla, gives birth. So desperate, that she has manifested a physical embodiment of her fear in the form of her imagined companion, Khawf, who haunts her every move in an effort to keep her safe. 
But even with Khawf pressing her to leave, Salama is torn between her loyalty to her country and her conviction to survive. Salama must contend with bullets and bombs, military assaults, and her shifting sense of morality before she might finally breathe free. And when she crosses paths with the boy she was supposed to meet one fateful day, she starts to doubt her resolve in leaving home at all.  
Soon, Salama must learn to see the events around her for what they truly are—not a war, but a revolution—and decide how she, too, will cry for Syria’s freedom.

Review: I love the cover of this book, the patterns, the colors, and the feelings it evokes. I have read a number of other books about the war in Syria and worried that this one would be a repeat, but it wasn't. This novel is just so beautiful.

Salama is a character that I was immediately drawn to for her spirit of survival, her smarts, her caring of others, and her passion. Through Salama the reader witnesses both the brutality and hope in Syria, the desire to stay and protect and the need to leave, and the thousands of other ideas and experiences that pull Syrians in multiple directions.

It is Salama's sister, friends, patients, and love interest that show us what it is like to live in Syria, Homs in particular, as the government attacks mercilessly and the people protest. While this book could have been dark and depressing, it manages to balance that with hope. I truly believe that even in the worst of times, human beings need hope to keep going and this novel shows that. 

Challenges for which this counts:
  • Alphabet (Author)--Z
  • Literary Escapes--Syria

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