Desert Flower

Young Adult - Romance
39 Pages
Reviewed on 01/18/2017
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Author Biography

Zohra Saeed is the pen name for Rohini Sunderam, a semi-retired advertising copywriter. She has written two books as commissioned assignments, had articles published in The Statesman, Calcutta, India, The Globe & Mail, Canada, and The Halifax Chronicle Herald, Nova Scotia, Canada. She was a contributor to the anthology My Beautiful Bahrain (Miracle Publishing, Bahrain, 2011), More of My Beautiful Bahrain & Poetic Bahrain, (Robin Barratt Publishing UK), Desert Flower, Corpoetry, and Five Lives One Day in Bahrain (Ex-L-Ence Publishing UK). A poem was selected for publication in the international competition Poetry Rivals (Published by Remus House, UK) 2012. A story: Your rebirth, My death, placed 5th from 179 entries in the Atlantis Short Story contest 2013.
Rohini chose the penname Zohra Saeed for Desert Flower, to give it a separate persona.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Lisa McCombs for Readers' Favorite

Until the day the stranger came to Bahr’ein, Noor had never questioned her position in life. She was a dutiful daughter, a positive role model to her younger siblings, and in line to follow in her mother’s footsteps as is expected in her culture. Once she sets eyes on the fair Canadian, her priorities change. It is with a heavy heart that she recognizes his commitment to including her in his Western culture. It isn’t possible. The shame her betrayal would mean to her country and family would never allow her to follow her heart. Even if it was possible to escape with him, the fear of the unknown made this a dangerous plan. Yet, the stranger continues to haunt her days in his presence until he is forced to leave.

Desert Flower by Zohra Saeed is a beautifully written story of fairy tale romance and true love. Zohra Saeed brings to light the cruel realities that plague women of third world cultures and injustices, as the modern western world see them. Told in a succinct, perfectly written manner, this short tale holds a universally mastered theme unlike any ever read by this reviewer. With the underlying metaphor of a fragile desert bloom to love’s imperfections, this eye-opening narrative is certain to grab the heart of the reader. Human values of family trust and parental devotion are tested in what I hope is only the beginning of more of Saeed’s writings. This is about as perfect as it can get.

Jack Magnus

Desert Flower is a romance novella for young and new adults written by Zohra Saeed. Noor was born and grew up on the tiny island of Bahr’ein which followed the same strict and unyielding moral code and laws as its neighboring kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The restrictions placed upon the young, particularly young women, were every bit as unyielding and hostile as the relentless heat of their desert environment. Love was not permitted unless it was that of family and then tinged with respect and honor codes. Marriages were arrangements made by parents, guardians and religious leaders, and young girls had no say in their being wedded off to men far older than they. If they were lucky, they’d be joined with an educated man; one who wouldn’t beat them, as her mother ruefully told her. Women were not even allowed outside, and at fifteen, she was considered a woman, of marrying age, and decently attired only when her body and face were completely covered. As the daughter of her father’s first wife, she did have some privileges, including having the opportunity to learn English. This skill would put her in contact with a most unusual man, one who was far different from those of her own island nation. But could they possibly fall in love? The perils facing such a act were deadly and unyielding.

Zohra Saeed’s romance novella for young and new adults, Desert Flower, introduces readers to a very different world than most Western cultures, as seen through a young woman’s eyes. Women and girls are cloistered and basically used by their husbands for breeding and sexual services. It seems a bleak and hostile world that the heroine of Saeed’s tale is embarking upon, even if she appears to be more fortunate than most young women her age in that culture. The author includes a Glossary in the beginning of her story, and while glossaries are usually found in the backs of books, I quickly saw the sense in her placement. She swiftly brings her readers up to date on many of the cultural aspects of life in Bahr’ein and the expectations for young women’s behavior. I appreciated seeing that world through the eyes of one of the citizens most directly impacted by its culture, and felt the intensity of her dilemma as she finds herself falling in love with the stranger, against all her better judgment. You can see her worldview change as she moves from an implicit resignation of her role and status in that society to something marvelous, profound and only to be dreamed about. Desert Flower is most highly recommended.

Deborah Lloyd

As they say, the best gifts come in small packages – and this novella is a fine example of a short and wonderful story. The setting is the island of Bahr’ein, a small island east of Saudi Arabia, in the year 1930. The main character is a 15-year-old adolescent female, who is already considered “getting on in age” as she is not yet engaged to be married. The parents have turned down prospective suitors, as they believe she can marry well. They have hired a dallah (matchmaker) to find a husband from a higher class. She was educated in a proper primary school and speaks English. Her father, a successful businessman, has four wives; she is the first child of the first wife. Her life changes when Andrew McInnis, from Canada, comes to their home to buy carpets from her father. Author Zohra Saeed has written an enchanting tale in Desert Flower.

There are many delightful aspects to this book – the daily household activities of a devout Muslim family; the machinations of arranged marriages; the emotional realities for an adolescent female within these confines. The author has skillfully interwoven all these aspects together to create an engaging story. The writing flows well and is a quick read; at the same time, many details are included. In Desert Flower, Zohra Saeed has portrayed a slice of a traditional culture in a most compelling way. The reader will be engaged from the first word to the last. This is a very enjoyable read.

Gisela Dixon

Desert Flower by Zohra Saeed is a fiction romance novella set in the Middle East. Desert Flower starts off with an introduction to Noor, a young Muslim girl from a conservative family living in Bahrain. Her father is a carpet trader and has four wives. Noor is his eldest daughter from his first wife. Noor is able to get some education and is able to speak English better than anyone else in her family. A Canadian named Andrew McInnis then enters the scene and sees Noor when she accidentally appears in front of him with her face uncovered. Andrew is at their house to buy carpets from her father, and since Noor is the only one who can act as an effective interpreter, she and Andrew manage to talk daily right under her father’s nose. They soon fall in love, but both know that marriage through traditional means is impossible, and that they could both be stoned or killed if found out. In spite of this, they make plans to elope without anyone’s knowledge. This is their love story.

Desert Flower is a quick read, and the plot moves fast. One can tell that the author knows something about Middle Eastern culture; and the feelings and emotions of women living in constant seclusion with little power over their own lives is quite accurately portrayed. Noor is a young teenage girl at heart and her and Andrew’s love story told in her own words is well developed. I enjoyed learning a bit more about the Muslim culture in the Middle East as well as some commonly used phrases and terms in the language. Overall, this is an enjoyable read with a twist that young teenagers as well as adults will enjoy.

Viga Boland

Set in the 1930’s, in Bahrain, a tiny island kingdom to the east of Saudi Arabia, where the air is so hot you can hardly breathe, only palm trees survive in the arid soil, and love is a rare jewel, it’s love at first sight for both Andrew and Noor, a Muslim girl, when Andrew, a Canadian, arrives at Noor’s home to enquire about purchasing carpets from her father. But, there’s a problem few contemporary young adults in North America face. Bahrain, at that time, still follows the strict laws of Saudi Arabia: you don’t get to fall in love, let alone marry someone of your choice. A man can love his God, or his horse, but he doesn’t dare admit to loving a particular woman. And as for women? Their sole purpose is to be “the receptacle for man’s seed” and who that man is will not be decided by the woman, but by her family or a “dallal”, an official matchmaker!

Under such strict dictates, how can the instant attraction between Andrew and Noor blossom and grow naturally? They see and speak with each other always in the presence of Noor’s father who needs Noor to act as interpreter. So what hope does this couple have of professing their love for each other, let alone finding a way to be together in the future? If they were found out, Noor could be cast out by the tribe and left to wander alone in the desert. Even stoning would be more merciful.

How long has it been since you read a short, simple, but truly beautiful love story? Too long? Maybe never? Then why not take an hour out of your busy day to indulge yourself in Desert Flower by Zohra Saeed? Even though this story is classified as Young Adult, the unusual plot line, the touching characters and the enchanting romance that unfolds between Noor and Andrew will steal your heart, regardless of your age. Desert Flower by Zohra Saeed will mesmerize you with its poetic opening and simple, sensitive narrative. Andrew and Noor’s love story will capture your heart. And the conclusion? Well, read Desert Flower and find out for yourself why even a desert has cactus flowers.

Critical Reader

Out of all the books/stories I've read, this is one of my favorites! I'm a sucker for love, and religion and culture have always intrigued me as well. Highly recommend.

Monisha Gumber

The book is top class just like the author