The Syrian Virgin by Zack Love
Anissa is traumatized by the most brutal conflict of the 21st Century: the Syrian Civil War. In 2012, Islamists in Homs terrorize a Syrian-Christian community and destroy everything that a young woman holds dear. Narrowly escaping death, Anissa restarts her devastated life as a college student in NY. She is bewildered and lost — a virgin in every sense.
But despite her inexperience with men and life in the United States, Anissa is quickly drawn to two powerful individuals: Michael Kassab, the Syrian-American leader working to found the first Mideast Christian state, and Julien Morales, her Columbia University professor who runs a $20 billion hedge fund.
Complicating matters, Michael is still attached to his ex-girlfriend and Julien is the most sought after bachelor in Manhattan (and has hidden demons even his therapist can’t extract). Anissa’s heart and her communal ties pull her in different directions, as she seeks hope and renewal in a dark world.
WARNING: This book is about a young woman’s difficult journey: her escape from Syria’s Civil War, her transition to a new a country, and the relationships that she forms along the way, including her romantic interests in two very different men. The story is set against the backdrop of the Syrian Civil War and makes reference to violent acts, sometimes in detail. There is some occasional profanity and a few scenes that depict sexual intimacy. Accordingly, the recommended minimum age for readers is 16. The novel might be compared to books like “The Diary of Anne Frank” or “The Kite Runner.”
In a sea of cookie cutter romances that lack research, The Syrian Virgin is a refreshing change and stands out at the head of its class in contemporary romance.
I loved the level of detail that went into writing this story. It showcases the amount of time and energy that went into exploring the situation surrounding not only the historic and current state in Syria but the Middle Eastern region in general. It also made me question how we currently receive information through mass media outlets in what gets shared and what gets buried and virtually ignored.
Zack plunges us into a different world as we meet Anissa in her home country. She is dealing with profound changes happening as the political landscape shifts from a dictatorship to one where Islamist radicals are terrorizing the region by persecuting anyone who does not share their extreme religious views. Anissa’s family, who are Christian, find themselves in danger as the city she lives in is taken over and Sharia Law imposed.
The ideas and concepts she is exposed to through her college courses and extracurricular activities create an interesting path that provides two avenues for her to choose from. In some ways the avenues intersect and in others they run parallel. She faces some very grown up decisions for a young woman and desires to do what she can to help the greater good even if it means altering her morals to achieve her objectives.
The twist at the end has me very much wanting to know what happens next and I look forward to seeing where Zack takes Anissa in the next book. The Syrian Virgin is a very timely and relevant story
If you enjoy books like A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Joy Luck Club, The Syrian Virgin is a must read.
Zack Love graduated from Harvard College, where he studied mostly literature, psychology, philosophy, and film. After college, he moved to New York City and took a corporate consulting job that had absolutely nothing to do with his studies. The attacks of September 11, 2001 inspired him to write a novelette titled “The Doorman,” and heightened his interest in the Middle East. A decade later, that interest extended to the Syrian Civil War, which provided the backdrop for his latest work. In late 2013, Zack began releasing his unpublished works of fiction and became a full-time author. He has published comedy, psychological and philosophical fiction, and romance. Zack enjoys confining himself to one genre about as much as he likes trying to sum up his existence in one paragraph.