Synopses & Reviews
Told in alternating narratives that bridge centuries, the latest novel from New York Times bestselling author Samira Ahmed traces the lives of two young women fighting to write their own stories and escape the pressure of cultural expectations in worlds too long defined by men.
It's August in Paris and 17-year-old Khayyam Maquet — American, French, Indian, Muslim — is at a crossroads. This holiday with her parents should be a dream trip for the budding art historian. But her maybe-ex-boyfriend is probably ghosting her, she might have just blown her chance at getting into her dream college, and now all she really wants is to be back home in Chicago figuring out her messy life instead of brooding in the City of Light.
Two hundred years before Khayyam's summer of discontent, Leila is struggling to survive and keep her true love hidden from the Pasha who has "gifted" her with favored status in his harem. In the present day — and with the company of a descendant of Alexandre Dumas — Khayyam begins to connect allusions to an enigmatic 19th-century Muslim woman whose path may have intersected with Alexandre Dumas, Eugène Delacroix, and Lord Byron.
Echoing across centuries, Leila and Khayyam's lives intertwine, and as one woman's long-forgotten life is uncovered, another's is transformed.
"Ahmed's brilliant novel shows that the familiar journey of being smart, in love, and a little lost is as profound now as it was in the 19th century. Add in a romance in the hidden gardens of Paris and an explosive trove of lost historical letters from a woman almost forgotten and you've got a fresh, thoughtful joyride that you'll want to read with every woman and girl you know."
Kim Liggett, New York Times bestselling author of The Grace Year
"With a determination to give voice to a woman whose story has been erased from the pages of history, Ahmed offers yet another well-wrought and dynamic novel."
"Ahmed explores weighty themes including Orientalism, women silenced by history, and the responsibility of sharing their unheard voices . . . An entertaining tale that will appeal most to fans of art history and literature."
"Rich, emotional, and inspirational. Samira Ahmed does it again with a work of art that reads like an anthem for the voices silenced throughout history, and a call to raise our own." Farah Naz Rishi, author of I Hope You Get This Message
About the Author
Samira Ahmed was born in Bombay, India, and grew up in a small town in Illinois in a house that smelled like fried onions, cardamom, and potpourri. A graduate of the University of Chicago, she's lived in Vermont, Chicago, New York City, and Kauai, where she spent a year searching for the perfect mango. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @sam_aye_ahm.