The Sweetness of Tears: Book summary and reviews of The Sweetness of Tears by Nafisa Haji

The Sweetness of Tears

A Novel

by Nafisa Haji

The Sweetness of Tears
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  • Published in USA  May 2011
    320 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[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

The information about The Sweetness of Tears shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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Beth C

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."

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!!

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.

Sandra S. (Huntington Woods, Michigan)

The Sweetness of Tears by Nafisa Haji
This book begins as a mystery for the main character as well as a mystery for the reader. The main character has a feeling of doubt that she know the answer to, that gives the book its page-turning, powerful aspect. It takes the main character Jo, and the reader to many different countries she never thought she'd visit. She'd meet people who were strangers to her, but at the same time she felt she knew them. She never questioned the fact that the life journey she was on was what she was suppose to be doing. I believe knowing the answer that Jo was looking for the reader can enjoy learning as Jo does about all of the many characters she meets and learns about that the reader does not know. The book is also about religions. The Muslim religion is explained in detail. The difference between the Shiite and Sunni religion is explained. The author uses many Middle Eastern words and includes a glossary at the back of the book for the reader. I not only found this book to be very interesting and exciting, but I also found it to be educational.

Susan R. (Julian, NC)

The Sweetness of Life
I was very close to giving up on this book for the first 50 pages but I continued reading because I had really enjoyed this author's first book (The Writing on my Forehead). I made a list of all of the characters as they appeared in the book so that could connect the families. Once I did that, I couldn't put the book down. I think that this author presents a unique view on the differences of the two cultures - but then lets us see that ultimately we all strive for the same things in our lives no matter where we are from. I highly recommend this book.

Nancy L. (Denver, NC)

The New "Three Cups of Tea"
It's been a long time since I've read a book this good. The characters are from all over - an evangelical Christian family discovers their connection with Muslims from Pakistan and Iraq during the War on Terror. The Christian matriarch, Faith, is a woman of incredible compassion and bravery - in the world but not to her family. The world of the Muslim woman is heartbreaking.
I love the meaning of the "sweetness of tears":"Tears are proof that there is love in the world. Tears are only bitter when we cry selfishly for ourselves...tears that flow from the love in your heart" for others are sweet tears - let them fall.

...18 more reader reviews

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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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