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The Bread of Angels

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  643 Ratings  ·  162 Reviews
A gorgeous, romantic memoir of a young woman's year in Damascus, where she studied the Muslim Jesus, fled to an ancient desert monastery to heal her past, and unexpectedly found herself in love with a French novice monk.

In 2004, twenty-seven-year-old Stephanie Saldaña traveled to Damascus, Syria, on a Fulbright fellowship to study the role of the prophet Jesus in Islam. Sh
Paperback, Bound Galley / Advanced Copy / ARC, 306 pages
Published 2009
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I read this in one sitting, and consider it one of the most important religious memoirs I've read.

So, I think this book is selling itself short as a forbidden love story; the real heart of the book is about the author's 30 day silent Ignatian spirituality retreat in the Syrian desert. The author strikes a nice balance, assuming an educated interlocutor in the reader while providing a lot of handy political, historical, religious, and linguistic context. For example, it's not every forbidden love
Jun 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4 Stars mean I really liked it (according to this system) but the stars, as usual, don't really work for me. The Bread of Angels is just short of amazing.

This is a year long journey of the heart that takes us from a fairly mundane family life to a fairly mundane love affair between two rather unworldly academics in the US to life in the fascinating back lanes of a Christian ghetto in Damascus, and a desert monastery. Central to the journey is the story of the author's immersion in the rigorous d
Annika Paxman
I won this book off Goodreads first reads. I'm always a bit hesitant about memoirs. I can't help wondering if the story is as it happened or if it is how the author wants us to believe it happened. Either way I read this book skeptically, but was immediately engrossed and drawn into the life of Syria. The sights, sounds, smells, even the religious and political upheavals were tangible and beautifully written.

As she continues her journey to a desert monastery for a month long "Spiritual Excercis
Mandy Jo
Sep 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: texas-themed
This week’s headline? pray. love. write.

Why this book? bookslut, bookpeople, God

Which book format? digital — a regret

Primary reading environment? at la madeleine

Any preconceived notions? fools need signs

Identify most with? she’s my age

Three-word quote? “vocation in love”

Goes well with? iced green tea

A few weeks ago, I was driving with a friend through the desert on our way to the airport. We’d finally reconnected after three days together, and she was telling me how much the landscape inspired h
Feb 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written descriptions of Damascus and the Syrian desert, as well as a clear love of the Arabic language (and humanity in general), pushed this memoir of spiritual and personal growth out of the ordinary. My favorite descriptions were of children playing near a mosque, of the moment the language clicked for the author after weeks of struggle and mistakes and of her deepening forays into the poetry of the Quaran. The love story was very romantic, too. The one quibble I had was with her ...more
Jan 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely love this book. For its beautiful prose, its beautiful love story, its search for meaning, the way it shares other cultures, especially ones that are so foreign to many in these trying times. It teaches us that we are all one, that we are more alike than different, and the differences we have are not so scary. I admire Stephanie for her courage to travel alone to places I would not dare to go alone, I admire her for opening her heart so that we could learn from her journey. This is ...more
Aug 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs, ylto-2016
A new friend gave this to me on the plane to Boston this week. She's read it several times and sensed I would like it. Since I loved her 10 minutes after meeting her, I suspected she'd be right. I read it in couple days at a cabin on a lake in Maine, sometimes falling asleep midpage cause I didn't want to put it down, sometimes while feeding chipmunks from my hand. It was beautiful and tapped into some very deep parts of me. Definitely worth a read!
Mar 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stephanie Saldana spends a year (2004-2005) in Damascus. This memoir was engaging, thought provoking, and well written.

I was intrigued by her descriptions of Damascus, with refugees streaming in from Iraq and other middle eastern countries. It gave me a lot to ponder. Some points:
*Anti-American demonstrations come to mind when I think of the middle eastern countries. Stephanie shares several examples of people that didn't agree with American politics, but were still kind to her as an American a
Jan 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
I hesitate to use the word "mystical" when describing a book because it's one of those words that turn me off. I'm not even sure it's the proper word to be describing The Bread of Angels: A Journey to Love and Faith by Stephanie Saldaña, essentially about a young woman in search of God - except she does so in a monastery in the middle of the Syrian desert. Half of the book details Saldaña's spritual exercises and visions, i.e., going through hell and undergoing self-exorcism. Let me know if I've ...more
Andrea Broomfield
I was fortunate enough to find Saldana’s Bread of Angels as an audiobook, and so for several days when I commuted to work, I listened carefully to this memoir. Rather than hearing the blare of politicians, the chatter of advertisers, and hyped pitch of disk jockeys, I instead absorbed some religious and cultural history, and more importantly, I found that Saldana’s wisdom—her bread of angels—became my bread as well. Throughout the work day and while falling asleep at night, I pondered the same a ...more
Jun 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I intended to love this book. I read an excerpt, or maybe a summary, in the New York Times- Stephanie Saldana wrote an essay for "Modern Love." I made a mental note to buy her book.
If I could, I'd give this three and a half stars. I settled on four because I remember giving three to "Eat, Pray, Love," and this is to my mind a better variation on the same theme.
Like Elizabeth Gilbert, Saldana is very introspective and fascinated by religion and good at getting her heart broken. She's less self-in
Eapen Chacko
Sep 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In August of 2012, the Wall Street Journal featured a column by Stephanie Saldana on the kidnapping and execution of Jesuit priest and Abbot Paolo Dall'Oglio by rebel forces. At the end of the poignant column, the credit said that Stephanie Saldana was the author of "The Bread of Angels," and I knew that I had to read it. It paints an intimate portrait of a young woman of Mexican-American heritage from San Antonio, Texas, who decides to spend a year in Damascus. It could be described by readers ...more
Although a friend gave me this book to read, I found it difficult to get through. Although there were meaningful parts to it, I still found much of it beyond my ability to relate to or even understand. Stephanie Salana shares her experiences during a year in Syria as a Fulbright scholar with the goal of learning Arabic. However, she also goes back in time at intervals sharing her history, and it was difficult to follow the time line at times. At the beginning of the book, she has gone through di ...more
Kelly Hager
May 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the best book I've read all year (and I have read really good books so far already this year) and actually for quite a while before that. The easy (read: lazy) comparison is to Eat, Pray, Love because this is about a year spent in a foreign country and it's very religious and there is love but it's better.

(And I liked Eat, Pray, Love; I am in in no way knocking Elizabeth Gilbert.)

It's hard to tell what books will capture the public. Sometimes it's deserved (Harry Potter) but usually it's
Elizabeth Rowe
Jan 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
I feel a whole lot of pressure being asked to write a review for a FirstRead, but I'll give it my best shot.

I have to admit that I wasn't sure how much I would enjoy this book because I'm not familiar at all with the Middle East culture, and I'm not much into books about faith and spirituality. I was so excited to find myself absolutely sucked in. This wasn't so much a story about faith, it was more about finding yourself and your purpose and path in life. The imagery was spectacular, from the d
رولا البلبيسي Rula  Bilbeisi

In 2004, the 27 year old Saldana travelled to Damascus to study "The Muslim Jesus". In this memoire, using such poetic language, she described the city of Damascus beautifully. The rich culture, the tiny allies, the food, the people, the mosks and arabic language are all illustrated in detailes.

For an American to come to syria in 2004 after the Iraq war, was in itself a big challenge she had to face. However, when her life intersected with others she met during her stay (the armenian neighbour,
So far I'm enjoying this book mostly because I'm intensely interested in life in Damascus and can relate to learning Arabic. It has some continuity issues which the editor should have caught and I find them distracting. Plus, naming sections of your book after phases of Christ's life seems a little presumptuous.

UPDATE: Okay, so I finished reading this book. Correction: the chapters are named after a spiritual program by Saint Ignatius. I liked it, but I should have loved it. It had all the right
Oct 05, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spiritual, memoir
Since I"ll probably never travel to Damascus, I had to settle for this armchair travelling. This is not just a travel memoir, but really a spiritual journey memoir. While I enjoyed it somewhat, I felt it was too long in places. ("Just get to the point already.")
One interesting part to me was that she underwent the spiritual exercises of Ignatious, which is a very specific 30 day retreat, and she did it in the desert. I have heard about this retreat,so it was interesting to see what it involved.
Aug 26, 2011 rated it liked it
I finished this last night in the wee hours and awoke early, a bit unnerved. As I combed through my memory for various personality disorders, I hit upon histrionic personality disorder as likely describing a condition the author suffers from. Considering her most difficult early life, I say this with compassion.

Although the author paints a vivid, loving and evocative picture of both Syria and her Muslim friends, the tone of the book was disturbing. It is a highly romantic and, I feel, exaggerate
Jan 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
What a wonderfully written book! Not only did the book take me on a cultural journey through the Middle East it also showed the tension and turmoil that the citizens of those countries felt. Saldana's detail in describing the tastes and smells of Damascus made me feel like I was actually there taking the walks though the alleys and sipping coffee with her. Having tried to study Arabic myself, it was refreshing to see her struggles and triumphs with the teachers and the language. Her struggles wi ...more
Apr 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jillian by: Sarah
I went into reading this book thinking that it was more a memoir of a romance, albeit a forbidden one. I was surprised, then, by Saldaña's story, her focus on her faith, her deep journey into the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

All said and done though, and despite my having minimal knowledge of Catholicism, I was riveted, start to finish. Her style is so open, so honest, I felt that I was there in Syria alongside her. And having been to Syria myself, I felt that she did it the justice so ma
Dec 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: free-copy
This spiritual memoir is just lovely. I enjoyed almost every word. I can fault it for being a bit melodramatic, but, honestly, I generally mostly dug it. If you are multi-faith inclined, you will really like this book. The author has great knowledge of the major monotheistic religions (including Islam), which shines through but in a non-teachy way.

The author is speaking in Boulder in February, and I'm really excited to hear her.

Again, a very beautiful, soulful book. It's really not to be misse
Ruth Scott
I selected this because of a recent visit to Syria and thought it could offer new insights into a country with an amazing history that is currently torn apart by civil war and oppression.
I didn't like it as much as I had hoped...I couldn't really identify with Stephanie and her personal issues...
Apr 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing and lovely! Read this to have a sense of Western/ mid Eastern culture, and Christian/Muslim culture. Stephanie found herself in Syria not long after 911 to learn Arabic. Her journey both internal and cultural was generous to share.
I received a copy of this through Goodreads First Read, and have to admit that I loved it! What a great memoir of love and faith, of struggles and discoveries, of searching and finding. I envy Stephanie and her year spent in Syria. What amazing experiences she had.
Dec 08, 2010 rated it it was ok
Liked the beginning and the end, but not the middle.
Michelle Ule
I loved the sequel to this book but this one felt muddled and confused--which is what Saldana was during these years.

Her descriptions of learning Arabic were wonderful, but her theology was a mess. I'm not sure it ever resolved itself which made it uncomfortable for me to read.

Still, she's painted an interesting portrait of a time and place which, 12 years later, is long gone. I appreciated that very much and spent quite a bit of time looking for photos of the monastery in the Syrian mountains.
Melynda Mccutcheon
I love memoirs that are authentic and honest. This spiritual journey captivated me.
Karen Olevitz
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read.
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is one I want to own! Like a kaleidoscope it took my perspective and slightly shifted it! So good!
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