The Forty Rules of Love

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Overview

In this follow-up to her acclaimed 2007 novel The Bastard of Istanbul, Turkish author Elif Shafak unfolds two tantalizing parallel narratives—one contemporary and the other set in the thirteenth century, when Rumi encountered his spiritual mentor, the whirling dervish known as Shams of Tabriz—that together incarnate the poet's timeless message of love.

Ella Rubenstein is forty years old and unhappily married when she takes a job as a reader for a literary agent. Her first ...

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The Forty Rules of Love

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Overview

In this follow-up to her acclaimed 2007 novel The Bastard of Istanbul, Turkish author Elif Shafak unfolds two tantalizing parallel narratives—one contemporary and the other set in the thirteenth century, when Rumi encountered his spiritual mentor, the whirling dervish known as Shams of Tabriz—that together incarnate the poet's timeless message of love.

Ella Rubenstein is forty years old and unhappily married when she takes a job as a reader for a literary agent. Her first assignment is to read and report on Sweet Blasphemy, a novel written by a man named Aziz Zahara. Ella is mesmerized by his tale of Shams' search for Rumi and the dervish's role in transforming the successful but unhappy cleric into a committed mystic, passionate poet, and advocate of love. She is also taken with Shams's lessons, or rules, which offer insight into an ancient philosophy based on the unity of all people and religions, and the presence of love in each and every one of us. As she reads on, she realizes that Rumi's story mirrors her own and that Zahara—like Shams—has come to set her free.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Parallel spiritual experiences leap across hundreds of years in this story of searching and awakening by Turkish author Shafak (The Bastard of Istanbul). Nearing 40, Ella Rubenstein runs her American suburban household with grace, denying any evidence that all is not well (her husband is unfaithful, and her kids are distant). Once she gets a job assignment to read the manuscript of a novel involving Rumi, the poet and Sufi master, her well-ordered world is changed forever. She begins an email correspondence with Aziz, the charming and mystical author, that becomes the impetus for her own personal renaissance. Moving rapidly across continents and across time, Shafak's allegorical tale functions as a vehicle for the titular 40 rules, which are woven throughout. Chapters alternate between Ella's life in 2008 and the lives of Rumi and other characters from the manuscript, set around 1245. The tantalizing possibility of romance lingers, although with much vexation, as these Forty Rules of Love point not to eros but to agape, the love of God and of all beings. VERDICT This novel, a best seller in Turkey, may appeal to fans of Nicholas Sparks or Robert James Waller. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/09.]—Susanne Wells, P.L. of Cincinnati & Hamilton Cty.
Kirkus Reviews
The bestselling, controversial Turkish author (Bastard of Istanbul, 2007, etc.) enfolds a historical narrative about a Sufi poet within the contemporary tale of a discontented Massachusetts housewife. With her daughter in college and her twins in high school, Ella Rubinstein has gone back to work as a reader for a Boston literary agent. She accepts the lack of passion in her marriage to a philandering dentist-this unfortunate stereotype is typical of Shafak's tin ear where Americans are concerned-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. Soon Ella is carrying on an e-mail correspondence of growing intensity with the manuscript's author, Craig, a Scot who found Sufism after a long period of personal crisis. Craig and Ella are soul mates too, and it doesn't hurt that he's cute. It's hard to care about Ella, who considers her younger daughter's eating disorder a distraction from her pursuit of spiritual enlightenment. The energy, complexity and empathy found in Shafak's previous work are evident only in the sections of the text devoted to Rumi. He suffers humiliations from Shams, a gifted mystic but far from perfect human being who cuts him off from his family and followers, but Rumi appreciates the deeper meaning behind the tests Shams sets for him. When Shams is murdered with the help of Rumi's jealous son, Rumi's grief blossoms into great poetry still beloved today. In the parallel present, Ella leaves her family to follow Craig to Turkey, knowing he has terminal cancer.His death only deepens her commitment to her personal quest, and she heads to Amsterdam, where he had lived. After all, the kids can always visit. 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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143118527
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/26/2011
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 94,493
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak, an award-winning, bestselling novelist and the most widely read female writer in Turkey, is the author of The Gaze and The Saint of Incipient Insanities.

Laural Merlington has recorded well over one hundred audiobooks, including works by Margaret Atwood and Alice Hoffman, and is the recipient of several AudioFile Earphones Awards. An Audie Award nominee, she has also directed over one hundred audiobooks.

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Interviews & Essays

THE STORY BEHIND THE FORTY RULES OF LOVE by Elif Shafak

My interest in Sufism began when I was a college student. At the time I was a rebellious young woman who liked to wrap several shawls of “–isms” around her shoulders: I was a leftist, feminist, nihilist, environmentalist, anarcho-pacifist…. I wasn’t interested in any religion and the difference between “religiosity” and “spirituality” was lost to me. Having spent some time of my childhood with a loving grandmother with many superstitions and beliefs, I had a sense the world was not composed of solely material things and there was more to life than I could see. But the truth is, I wasn’t interested in understanding the world. I only wanted to change it.

I loved books. I had started reading fiction and writing short stories at an early age, not because I wanted to be a professional writer at the time, but because I found my life dull and boring. I enjoyed living in the stories I wrote. I was an only child. I was raised by a single, working mother who could not spend much time with me. Due to my mother’s profession we lived in different countries. Wherever I went “imagination” was the first suitcase I took with me.

Little by little, I had built a private world, an inner space where stories floated freely. This was my life before college and when college started, old habits did not change. Whenever I could I retreated into that private space and I read, read, read. Books were the bridges that connected me to the world. It is no wonder, then, that my interest in Sufism, too, began with books.

It wasn’t one particular book, but a series of books. I started reading on Sufism out of intellectual curiosity. One book led to another. A scrap of information in a footnote in one book guided me to another book. The more I read the more I unlearned. Because that is what Sufism does to you, it makes you “erase” what you know and what you are so sure of. Then you start thinking again. Not with your mind this time, but with your heart.

Among all the Sufi poets and philosophers that I read about during those years there were two names that moved me with their words: Shams of Tabriz and the great Rumi. In an age of deeply-embedded bigotries and clashes, they had stood for a universal spirituality, opening their doors to people of all backgrounds equally. They spoke of love as the essence of life, love that connected us all across centuries, cultures and cities. As I kept reading the Mathnawi, Rumi’s words gently removed the shawls I had wrapped around myself, layer upon layer, as if I was always in need of some warmth coming from outside.

I understood that whatever I chose to be, “leftist”, “feminist” or anything else, what I needed truly was the light inside of me. The light that exists inside all of us.

Thus began my interest in Sufism and spirituality. Over the years it went through several stages and seasons. Sometimes it was more vivid and visible, sometimes it receded to the background, but it never disappeared.

Spiritual paths are like stars in the dark satin of the sky. Some are long dead but their light still shines upon us. Some are there but we cannot see them. Some have been in the same place for such a long time we take simply them for granted. All together they set alight the sky we look up at for meaning and inspiration as we move toward the promise of a new day, a new Self. That sky is the same endless sea of love above a rebellious college student in Istanbul or a housewife living in Boston.

ELIF SHAFAK

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 28 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 10, 2010

    Emotionally and spiritually entwining & captivating... it moved my soul! A book about love, commitment, spiritual Oneness and belief... I loved every word on every page!

    I first came upon this book as I entered my local Barnes & Noble store and noticed two copies sitting on the front table of New Arrivals. The first thing that caught my eye was the brilliant and intricately detailed, beautiful cover. Then the title... The Forty Rules of Love - A Novel of Rumi. I must tell you that I believe in synchronicities and I had just been reading one of my many books of Rumi's poems through the preceeding week... I love his emotion, his beauty and his words. His philosophy and spiritual love that transcends through his poetry is exhilerating and captivating. Then I proceeded to read the intro about Shams within the book and immediately knew that I had to purchase this book. Within 3 days of crying, emotion, overwhelming feelings of love and surrender, I had read the book in its entireity, finding it very hard to put down. The author, Elif Shafak has captured the very essence of what Shams and Rumi had between each other and told their story with honor and humbleness. Such love does exist and at this moment in my life when I have felt that maybe it didn't, she has moved me to tears and rocked the core of my soul with her work and words... renewing my belief in true love and the honor & commitment between two souls that are meant to be together... no matter the odds & barriers. Thank you Elif! I loved how she intertwined the present day relationship between Ella Rubenstein & Aziz Zahara with Shams and Rumi's relationship of long ago and yet still felt to this present day through the poetry of Rumi translated by many. After finishing the novel, I could hardly catch my breath... I cried, I laughed...then I immediately went out and bought a book for a dear friend of mine as she too loves Rumi and I knew this book was something she would treasure forever as I do. When an author can captivate the reader's senses to a measurement of moving them to complete emotion and ecstasy... she or he is more than just an author... they transcend space and time and bring to us the joy and love that we are all looking for within ourselves and outside of ourselves. Tashi Daley Elif... (I honor the greatness in you.) - Maggie153

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 28, 2012

    Highly recommended

    The Forty Rules Of Love is a book that I hesitated to buy and read for a loooong time. Whenever I stopped by a bookshop, I saw it, picked up, paged through it and left it back many many times since I held love cheap. Then one day a close friend of mine recommended this book to me excitedly saying I would love it. So I did, still a bit unwillingly. And It smashed me on every page!! When I finished the book, I was in a great shock and there was nothing left from my old self. Little did I know what love was. Love had nothing to do with that love I knew! Since then I'm on pursuit of real love, real meaning of life and never felt I was this close before. Thank Elif Safak a million for this chance! I'll treasure this amazing book forever and never ever lose my way home again!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2012

    Incredible

    For anyone that is interested in love and spirituality. A fantastic book with great characters and great insights. Not only a fun read but an enlightening one as well.

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  • Posted January 20, 2011

    Highly recommended_

    This Book is a historic fiction,based on the teachings of Rumi and the practices of Sufism.It an excellent book because it is a stark contrast to the Fundamentally rigid religion that is the reality of Wahabism. Sufi's teach moderation, love and benevolence, whereas the fundamentalist teach intolerance,rigidity and exclusion.I Wish people would enlighten themselves with this Book.

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  • Posted September 14, 2010

    one of the most enjoyable books for me

    love to read, and being slightly familiar with Rumi's poetry , I loved how this author incorporated the 13th century mystical man's views to the story. Really enjoyed it and hated it to finish.

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  • Posted May 14, 2010

    I Felt Transported

    Ella is twenty years into what is now a loveless marriage. She rationalizes this by thinking that love is not important. When her college age daughter tells her at the books beginning that she wants to get married, Ella quickly dismisses the notion that being in love is a valid reason for marriage.
    Then she begins reading a manuscript of a novel written by a Scottish man who converted to Sufism, which explores the relationship between Rumi and Shams of Tabriz. This manuscript is presented as a book within a book, and is actually a much greater percentage of the novel than Ella's story. Shams was a wandering dervish who becomes a companion to Rumi, before Rumi became a poet, when he was preaching sermons to the Muslim community in Konya and was highly respected as a scholar. Shams influences Rumi to adopt Sufi beliefs and in the process, Shams becomes hated in the community and Rumi loses his previous standing. We learn this story through the voices of many different characters - Rumi and Shams, and Rumi's family, and community members, mostly from the outcasts whom Shams had befriended.
    This book greatly influences Ella and changes her outlook about love. She starts an email relationship with the author of the book, and starts ignoring her husband. she yearns for a different life in which she/ can be happy.
    I almost gave up on this book at the very beginning because I was put off by the opening scene where Ella states her views about the meaningless of love. but, I am glad that I decided to continue. The story of Shams and Rumi is highly interesting and I enjoyed being transported into their world.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2010

    Great Book!

    Highly recommend!

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  • Posted January 20, 2010

    Amazing

    I read this book in turkish and found it really amazing. The story is well developed. Great novel about sufism. After I started reading, It really got my interest and read it very quickly. If you are interested in Sufism and Rumi I would highly reccomand this book. You won't regret. Enjoy :)

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