In present-day Boston, dull suburban mother takes a job as a reader for a literary agent and becomes entranced with a manuscript about the relationship between 13th-century poet Rumi and Sufi mystic Shams that, for better or for worse, becomes a story-within-a-story.
Turkish novelist Elif Shafak's new novel, The Forty Rules of Love, takes us into the life of a middle-aged Jewish woman from central Massachusetts, who as a reader for a literary agent, has just picked up a copy of a novel by a modern Sufi mystic ... This friendship turns Rumi's life upside down and eventually brings about Shams' own murder. Over the course of a few weeks in June, reading their story turns Ella's life into glorious confusion, and she eventually comes up with a plan to change it all for the better ...a middle-aged love story and the inside story of one of history's great friendships, and on top of all that, the story of the battle within medieval Islam between the conservatives and the Sufis ...a little kitschy at times, but that's part of the fun of it.
The Forty Rules of Love is a terribly frustrating novel, because almost everything about it is wonderful except for the work itself ... Now, she has written a novel about an American Jewish housewife who finds love with a bohemian Sufi mystic ...tells intertwined stories separated by centuries... Nor does she convey any sense of religious profundity or transcendence. A book that turns on its characters’ spiritual raptures needs at least a hint of the sublime ... The mindless stock phrases pile up, becoming actively irritating as the book goes on ... This book is more evidence that good politics and good intentions do not necessarily make good literature.
The bestselling, controversial Turkish author enfolds a historical narrative about a Sufi poet within the contemporary tale of a discontented Massachusetts housewife ...Ella Rubinstein has gone back to work as a reader for a Boston literary agent ...until her first reading assignment forces her to reexamine her complacency. It’s a manuscript entitled Sweet Blasphemy, which describes the 13th-century friendship between Rumi, a respected Muslim scholar, and Shams, a wandering dervish who became his soul mate ... The energy, complexity and empathy found in Shafak’s previous work are evident only in the sections of the text devoted to Rumi ... In the parallel present, Ella leaves her family to follow Craig to Turkey, knowing he has terminal cancer ... Shafak should have dropped Ella’s story, with its preachy spiritual ruminations, and stuck to Rumi’s odyssey, which opens a window into a world Westerners know little about.