The Garnet Bunches
by Zeynab Salimova

"Everything was grey and lifeless—as if you were in another world, the world of the dead. Here time stopped."

Part autobiography, part novel, and part historical record—this is a story of life that mostly unfolds in the country of Azerbaijan. The book intertwines the author’s own story with that of her great-grandmother. In so doing, she shows that her homeland is both rich in history and culture, yet undeniably part of the world’s ever changing interaction of cities, countries, and continents.

The heart of the narrative centers on the young and beautiful Gunel, her handsome husband Tural, and their family. We are made privy to their courtship and marriage, the births of their children, and the trials and tribulations that beset them when Tural is falsely accused and imprisoned. In fact, the most compelling parts of Salimova’s book are the moving passages that involve her husband’s incarceration and the financial and emotional struggles she encounters trying to keep their family together.

Throughout her chronicles, the author intersperses geographic, historical, and philosophical perspectives that give readers a much greater familiarity with a part of the world so many know so little about. Multiple photographs from historic periods of life in and around Baku, Azerbaijan, are also included. They enhance one’s visualization of what life was really like in times previous to our own.

Salimova writes with an accent both lilting and lovely. While some phrases reveal that English is not her first language, she certainly uses the king’s speech to her advantage when striving for emotional relevance. Her tale emphatically shows that regardless of nationality or religion, life treats us all to ups and downs that enable each of us to understand and empathize with this thing we call the human condition.

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