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Posted June 12, 2010
In Bread of Angels Stephanie Saldana spends a year studying Arabic in Damascus. She starts out lonely and lost about what she wants to do with her life. Her Arabic studies are difficult to say the least and she soon learns that the archaic Arabic she is learning to study the Quran is all but useless in the streets. 9/11 happens and the the US invades Iraq, making it a bad time to be an American in Syria. Eventually Stephanie retreats to a beautiful and ancient Christian monastary in the desert where she confronts her crisis of faith head on and falls in love with a French novice monk.
Bread of Angels is the best kind of memoir, unflinchingly honest with the clearer vision of hindsight. Stephanie writes of the places she traveled with stunning descriptions but it is the people she introduces who will stay with you and feel like friends by the end. I felt I knew her crazy landlord, the Iraqi artist she befriends, and the amazing women in the mosque who she teaches English to. The story is part travelogue, part spiritual quest, and part love story and I really enjoyed it.
I listened to the audio version of this book. It was beautifully and expressively read by Cassandra Campbell. This is one of those narrations that is so spot-on its hard to believe it isn't the author telling you the story herself as you sip glasses of tea together.