Faten’s happy life in her village comes to an abrupt end when her father arranges for her to work as a servant for a wealthy Beirut family with two spoiled daughters. What does a bright, ambitious seventeen-year-old do when she is suddenly deprived of her friends, family, education and freedom? Could the mysterious, wealthy young man who lives in the next apartment building help?
When Faten finally manages to make contact with Marwan, a musician and engineering student, he helps her figure out a way to pursue her studies in secret. Even against the uncertain backdrop of the civil war, their romance develops, as the two conspire to exchange notes and meet at an idyllic seaside cafe. But in Lebanese society the differences in religion, class and wealth are stacked against them, and their parents have very different ideas about what their futures should be. When Marwan’s mother chooses a girl who will make him a suitable wife, Faten must pick up the pieces of her life and move forward. She does so, despite the odds, pursuing a job, an education and her independence.
And, in the end, it seems there may be room in her life yet for romance, and hope for a future where young people can determine their own destinies.
An engaging and lucidly written coming-of-age novel. Faten struggles to fulfill her potential in the midst of her society’s rigid expectations. She’s a nuanced, complex protagonist that any teenager can relate to — stubborn, impulsive and full of longing, but with the determination and smarts to keep her real dreams in sight.