Wise and assured, The Sweetness of Tears is a powerful reminder of the ties that bind us, the choices that divide us, and the universal joys and tragedies that shape us all.
In her second novel, Nafisa Haji returns to the emotional terrain of her well-received debut The Writing on My Forehead to explore the collision of culture and religion, tradition and modernity played out through individual lives. A story of forbidden love and familial dysfunction that interweaves multiple generational and cultural viewpoints, The Sweetness of Tears is a tour de force of secrets, pain, identity, and hope in which a young woman's quest to find herself leads her to greater truths about the world and life itself.
When faith and facts collide, Jo March - a young woman born into an Evangelical Christian dynasty - wrestles with doubts and questions about who she is and how she fits into the legacy of her faithful family.
Chasing loose threads that she hopes will lead to the truth takes Jo on an unlikely quest across boundaries of language an faith, through chasms of sectarian divides in the Muslim world, against the backdrop of the War on Terror, from California to Chicago, Pakistan to Iraq. As she delves deep into the past, she meets a host of relatives from diverse backgrounds - many of whom she never knew existed - whose experiences are indelibly intertwined with her own. By the end of the journey, she learns that nothing is ever as it seems, and that the most spiritually devoted are often those who once questioned their beliefs the most.
"[Haji's] new novel will appeal to readers interested in the clash of cultures. Promising for discussion, as the reading group guide suggests." - Library Journal
"As each character's life unfolds, Haji's focus expands to the breaking point... Somewhere in all of this is a family story, and the many threads eventually cleave to illustrate how a complicated blend of race, religion, culture, and tradition can create peace rather than conflict." - Publishers Weekly
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Rated of 5
I Loved "The Sweetness of Tears"
Nafisa Haji's newest novel, "The Sweetness of Tears" is a wonderful book that has engaging and well developed characters, an interesting plot line, and a plethora of information on Pakistani life. Haji deals with family life and culture in Karachi as well as the differences that ensue when Pakistani families emigrate to the United States. Her characters also cope with effects of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Because each chapter is told from the different character's point of view, the reader feels that they are inside their heads and know what makes them tick. For those who have difficulty with books that include foreign words, Haji has even included a glossery at the end.
This would be a great book club book - especially for groups who enjoyed other West Asian books such as "The Kite Runner." I thoroughly enjoyed the book and will definitely recommend it. I also want to find and read Haji's first novel, "The Writing on My Forehead."
Rated of 5
Laureen S. (Aurora, IL)
I struggled through the first 50 or so pages because there were so many characters - it was hard to keep track of how they were all connected. Once I got passed that, I was hooked! Haja does a terrific job exploring a multitude of difficult but import themes. In addition, she does a wonderful job explaining the Muslim religion, the differences between cultures and religions and drawing you into these characters worlds by moving you with their voices. I will be recommending it to my friends.
Rated of 5
Nikki M. (Fort Wayne, IN)
After loving "The Writing on My Forehead" by Nafisa Haji, I was looking forward to what proved to be a very interesting, if somewhat disjointed, novel. Much attention must be paid to what voice you are "listening" to. May be worth a re-read just to clarify some things!
Rated of 5
Lola T. (Broken Arrow, OK)
The Sweetness of Tears
I had several reservations or hastily made judgements as I dipped into the first section of the book, but I am so happy to say the fears were not realized. I was on guard fearing that this might be a "preachy, Christian" novel, but I couldn't have been farther from the truth!
I love books that really give me insight into a culture or religion, and does this one deliver!!
The differing points of view were well-done, although in the beginning I did need to keep track of who was who. Their voices were well-defined and clear. The "forbidden love" that is the impetus for the stories of all involved seemed just a tad far-fetched, but, I suppose stranger things happen in real life!
If there was a fault, I'd say the story was wrapped up a little too neatly - and quickly - at the end.
I loved the book and will recommend it, especially to individuals who read looking for books that their group will enjoy. Congratulations on a novel well-done!!
Rated of 5
Molly B. (Longmont, CO)
Some pearls of wisdom
This book moves ahead in interesting ways. Unlikely topics and worlds combine authentically. It teaches while entertaining – a great mix. By reminding us of our shared humanity, the author offers transcending links between two cultures that we have been taught are diametrically opposed. There are some real pearls. Haji proposes that “the messy complicated nature of truth” is essential to well-being; that grief is a better choice than anger because it “ages better”; and she describes the “rare gift” of the chance to atone. I shed a few tears myself reading this book, and each one was sweet.
Rated of 5
Lee M. (Creve Coeur, MO)
The book unfolds slowly and caringly and introduces Angela, Sadiq, Jo and Chris, a very unusual extended family. The author adds equally fascinating characters; Uncle Ron, Jake, grandma Faith and my favorite Deena. Nafisa Haji's knowledge and research shines in her descriptions of Pakistan, Iraq, and Southern California. The Glossary is an added bonus.
Nafisa Haji is an American of Indo-Pakistani descent. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she now lives in Northern California with her husband and son. Her first novel, The Writing on My Forehead, was a finalist for the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Book of the Year Award.
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