"The Strings of the Lute"

Written by Eileen Colucci

Published by: XLibris

Reviewed by: Beate Sigriddaughter

Genre: Fiction

The Strings of the Lute is a beautiful novel about three people, a woman, a man, and their child, who bravely and lovingly negotiate their way through the difficult terrain of blended religions and blended cultures. The main character, an American Catholic woman, Lorraine, falls in love with a Moroccan Moslem man, Larbi, while both are studying in France. Family and friends on either side are skeptical about their relationship, but their love prevails as both of them follow their hearts and create bridges across the dangerous chasms of dogmas they have been raised with. They meet each other as human beings rather than as representatives of alien and therefore automatically suspect cultures, and they manage to overcome not only their own culture-bound prejudices and moods, but also the objections and concerns of their immediate families.

Their story is told with magical simplicity and realism, from Lorraine's French landlady's unsuccessful attempt to enforce her standards of propriety onto her student lodger, to a harrowing scene where a teacher informs the now married couple's young son, Ismail, that his mother is destined to go to hell because she does not belong to the right religion. The scenes are specific, but the issues addressed in the novel are larger than life. They are also very timely for a world in which there is a great need for human beings to comprehend that we are one species destined to understand one another, rather than feeling vastly superior to others because of belonging to our small select group of whatever persuasion.

The most rigid and judgmental major character in the novel, Lorraine's best friend from childhood through adulthood, Suzanne, also ends up the most disappointed character, despite the fact that she does go through a growth process of her own. Raised Catholic like Lorraine, she worries about Lorraine's each and every deviation from the proscribed path, and she exhibits quite a few evangelistic tendencies to try to bring Lorraine back into the fold, seldom questioning whether the fold may not be dangerously limiting, if not outright imprisoning. Yet in all her self-righteousness, even Suzanne is portrayed with great compassion.

A luminous compassion is the prevailing quality of the novel, and I found it hard to put down. This is the kind of writing I want to read from my fellow women writers. It is unpretentious, honest, and stunningly beautiful. For any reader, male or female, who questions dogma and confining traditions, this novel will be both challenging and comforting. It is the best of many novels I have read in a year or more.

A native New Yorker, Eileen Coluccihas lived in Rabat for over twenty-five years with her husband, a Moroccan architect. They have two sons. Colucci's essays and short stories have been featured in various publications including Fodor's Morocco, Parents' Press and Expat Women. A former teacher, she is currently a translator. The Strings of the Lute is her first novel. Visit Eileen's website: http://www.eileencolucci.com.

Beate Sigriddaughter has published prose and poetry in many magazine and webzines. Her most recent book, a collection of stories and opinions of a philosophical white unicorn, The Unicorn And... was published in 2008. She is fiction editor at Moondance, and has established the Glass Woman Prize, now in its fifth award cycle, to honor passionate women's voices (details at www.sigriddaughter.com).


The Unicorn And... reviewed by Eileen Colucci | The Unpredictability Of Light, reviewed by Beate Siggridaughter