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Beneath the Same Heaven, by Anne Marie Ruff.

July 24, 2018

Beneath the Same Heaven
Beneath the Same Heaven: A Story of Love and Terrorism, by Anne Marie Ruff. Open Books, 2018.

4 stars

A provocative novel of an American woman and Pakistani man, their marriage torn apart by his conviction that he must avenge his father’s death in a drone attack.

Anne Marie Ruff was born in Minnesota and attended UCLA where she studied geography and environmental issues.  She has worked globally as a journalist, her work appearing in a wide variety of prominent publications.  Currently she writes and works for a global law firm.  Her husband is Indian-born.

Kathryn, an American, and Rashid, a Pakistani Muslim, met and fell in love when they were both working in Dubai.  Both sets of parents are supportive of them. When his company assigns Rashid to work in Los Angles, the couple settles comfortably there and has two sons.  Then Rahid’s father is killed in a U.S. drone strike near the border of Afghanistan.  His family pressures him to act in revenge for his father’s death.  Ruff traces each of the family through the aftermath of Rashid’s violence.

Ruff pushes readers to understand why people act in ways that we can seldom understand.  With insight and honesty, she convinces us that decisions can have private as well as ideological meaning.  In addition, she shows us the long-term consequences of actions on family members across generations.  It is easy to say that other cultures place a higher value on family than Americans. Ruff shows us in gritty detail what that can mean.

I recommend this novel, especially to readers who care about how cultural conflict plays out.

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