by Roseanne Saad Khalaf
Lebanon four journeys to the past, is a lively collection of stories that relate the adventures of colorful characters who fearlessly pursued their dreams. Lady Hester Stanhope, free-spirited and eccentric, fled the dreary confines of 19th century England in search of self-fulfillment and freedom unknown to her European counterparts. Sarah Smith’s missionary zeal and vision, on the other hand, led her to compose a sensitive and questioning life that challenged the certainty of her husband’s dogmatic opinions. Despite failing health, and an untimely death, she succeeded in establishing the first school for girls in the entire region. In another journey, an old woman trapped in an oppressive political setting perceptively re-examines the meaning of her life. Finally, the author draws on memory to trace her own childhood in the mountains of Lebanon made so magical by the presence of her grandparents. Althougth the tales are inspired by the past, the characters transcend the boundaries of age, gender, class, and nation. Like the author herself, they are “suspended between two worlds,” but in different ways, at various times and places, and seeking creative solutions. With the unique gift for vivid narrative, Khalaf sketches scenes and characters so intense and vibrant that the reader is left with a sense of having participated in their lives. History and fiction are imaginatively intertwined to recreate an enchanting world gone by. Written with exceptional wit and clarity, this is a book to be enjoyed by anyone not too old in spirit to delight in a good story.