Jasmine and Fire by Salma Abdelnour
Ms. Abdelnour was born in Beirut and emigrated to the US as a child. She enjoyed a success as a writer in NYC, but always had the desire to return to Beirut to live for good. She packed her bags, took an epic flight, and arrived in the Beirut that she had remembered, minus some scars from the civil war shelling. Salma easily falls into the routine of frenetic Beiruti life, connecting with friends and family, keeping up with the city’s famed club scene, and regaining her mastery of Arabic. The strength of this book is the sensory path that Ms. Abdelnour leads her readers on; you can smell the mint rising up from freshly brewed tea, you can taste the sugar granules on her favorite pastries and you can see the vast Mediterranean from the waterfront near her house. The book was slightly too self-centric for me, as there was much agonizing over feelings, but in the end it was a lovely portrait of an intriguing city. Notably, the author supplies Lebanese recipes at the end. We made the baba ghanoush. It was great.
That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo
Pulitzer prize winning Richard Russo brings us a story about middle age ennui, love, and loss which is set in successive transient, ephemeral Cape Cod summers. Dysfunctional family dynamics are smartly explored and difficult love is deftly analyzed. Particularly touching is the protagonist’s remembrance of a childhood summer on the Cape.