by Deborah Rodriguez
Set in the beautiful land of sand, blue seas, and an alluring culture, The Zanzibar Wife takes you through the streets of Oman, acquainting you with the stories and myths of this land, and pulling you into the lives of the lead characters.
Rachel, a war photographer realizes the hazards of her occupation; a heart which has become impervious to the sufferings of others; a coldness she has to maintain within herself in order to be best at what she does.
Rachel took pride in her reputation for being tough. It’s what made her stand out in a world of men. But it was one thing to be fearless, being willing to venture where few female photographers dared to go; it was another to be heartless
She decides to take a break from her work to recover from the damage that had been done to her, her soul. While on the break she takes up an assignment for a glossy magazine at the insistence of her friend, Maggie. And why not? She thinks, after all it is a source of income. So off she goes to Oman on her new assignment.
There she meets Ariana. Ariana Khan is a perfect example of a modern woman who still firmly holds on to her roots. Vivacious, pretty, and a big-time chatter box she prides herself in extracting the history of any person she meets. However, she is going through her own crisis. Having recently quit her job, she is running out of her savings, and hence desperate she agrees to become a fixer for Rachel. A job she has no idea how to manage.
Miza, second wife to a husband she dearly loves, has temporarily shifted to Oman from Zanzibar owing to her pregnancy. She misses her country and her sister, Sabra, terribly. But she too has a past which is none too happy.
With both parents dead, and an uncle who is ruthless, Miza agrees to wed her childhood friend, Tariq, even though he already has a wife in Oman. However, the love these two share gives Miza strength and happiness and a chance for a brighter future, both for herself and her sister.
Her existence in Oman and her pregnancy is a secret from Tariq’s dreadful first wife and hence when on a fateful day her husband doesn’t return home Miza is very troubled since she has no way of finding out what has happened to him.
Rachel and Ariana struggle each day to find the authentic craftsmen of Oman. Their efforts results in their bumping into various people including Miza. The conversations they have, the stories they tell each other gives a glimpse of a culture which is quite new to me, and something I would want to read about more. As they do more research they end up in a small town of Bahla known for its long associations with jinns and sorcerers.
While Rachel is excited to have finally found the local craftsmen of Oman, Ariana is terrified. Miza on the other hand is hoping the magic of Bahla will save her family from the black magic done by Tariq’s first wife.
Yes, this book has magic in it! It weaves into the story mid-way which is surprising at first, as a reader, but soon it becomes interesting. The magic becomes an integral part of the plot.
There are other stories interwoven into this one; Sabra, who unfortunately is taken captive by her uncle while Miza is in Oman, and Hani – Ariana’s love interest who despite being aware of the conflicting lifestyles of his and her family, falls in love with her. These seem like side tracks but are actually very important for the climax of the plot
Deborah Rodriquez has developed the characters really well. All of them likable. My favorite one is Ariana, her bubbliness is infectious!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Zanzibar Wife. It is fast-paced, engaging, and mysterious. Nowhere does the story drag or becomes too descriptive. It is light and a fun read. The cultural element in the book is fascinating. This is was my first book by Deborah Rodriguez, and I am delighted to have found her. Can’t wait to read the next one!
Read the previous review: The Woman in the Window