Eileen Souza's Reviews > The Forty Rules of Love

The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak
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's review
Sep 19, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: middle-east, bookclub, historical-fiction

Wow - what an excellent book. I picked this book up after reading Elif Shafak's "Bastard of Istanbul" which was enjoyable enough that I wanted more. This book was incredibly good - and a book that I will re-read, and see from different eyes for years to come.

The story is of Ella Rubenstein, a housewife in a successful family in Massachusetts. She gets a job as a literary reviewer, and the first novel she is asked to read is "Sweet Blasphemy" by A.Z. Zahara. As she digs into this novel of Rumi, a 13th century poet and his experience with Shams of Tabriz, the dervish that becomes his deepest friend, she starts to see how flawed her "perfect" life is - and the fact that it is devoid of love. Love is used not in it's romantic Valentine's Day sense, but in it's full love of life, and spiritual sense.

What I really enjoyed about this book is that Elif Shafak was able to take the words and poems of Sufi Islam wisdom, and make them tangible, clear, and accessible to me. Rumi and Shams were enlightened men, similar to Gandhi, Deepak, Buddha, Mohammed, Jesus, etc. Though I struggle with reading their powerful teachings of oneness, love, and compassion on their own, Elif was able to put these messages into a story so that I could read and understand their depth. I could absorb the wisdom and still enjoy the process.

I am not a believer in "God", and so in this novel, as I read about "Him" I was thinking more of the Universe, the connection between all people - quantum physics and energy. There were still messages for me, even as someone who does not believe that there is an All Powerful Being looking over my shoulder.

My rule that struck me most in this novel was "We were all created in His image, and yet we were each created different and unique. No two people are alike. No two hearts beat to the same rhythm. If God had wanted everyone to be the same, He would have made it so. Therefore disrespecting differences and imposing your own thoughts on others is tantamount to disrespecting God's holy scheme."

I often expect more of people then they are capable of giving - and then I am angered/disappointed that they cannot be who I expect them to be. I am frustrated by this daily - by people's inability to be efficient, their unwillingness to work harder, their Sheepiness and inability to think critically or ask questions. All of this is my own ego, expecting them to be what I want, not who they are. Just being able to let go of those expectations could improve my own well-being, and I will be working on it.

Elif is an exceptional writer - who can open up the 13th century for you, provide tolerant views of cultures we don't understand, and change your world - all while giving you an entertaining page turner that you can't put down.

Highly recommended!
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Myra (new)

Myra Wow Eileen, this is a book I never would have picked up in a store, but looks like an amazing read. Thanks for the review and doing the legwork to bring this to our attention.

message 2: by Farin (new)

Farin Habib amazing book i agree

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