Monday, January 2, 2023

As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh

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. 

Hardcover, 432 pages
Published September 13th 2022 
by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
5/5 stars

This is a book I recently received through the Book of the Month club, of which I am trying really hard to stay on top of, to not create a backlog. 

I'll just say that I don't feel my words can adequately reflect how I feel about this book.  I'm putting a link to the Goodreads page, be sure to check out the author's review (comments), it's the first one. Her words are definitely worth a read and hopefully inspire you to pick this one up.

Told from the POV of 18 year old Salama, showcases the heartbreaking events that took place during the revolution in Syria. What I loved about this story is the author notes and how she used real events to tell Salama's story.  A story that was was raw and at times hard to read, needless to say this is a story that will stay with me for a while.

Salama is an interesting character. Being a teen, only one year of formal education as a Pharmacist is forced into situations she was neither trained for or emotionally ready to handle. This was such a well written story, I had a hard time putting it down.  Her courage to survive in war torn Syria while alone was gripping.  There was many aspects causing a wide range of emotions. 

The other thing is this is Zoulfa Katouh's debut, oh my, can't wait to see wait to see what she writes next.

As Long as the Lemon Trees Grows is an emotional story that is well written, well researched, and showcases human resilience and hope. Hope is what shines through when all appears to be lost.

This book was part of my 2022 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge #90, also my last book of 2022.

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