The Bastard of Istanbul ) serves up a curious blend of mediocre hen lit and epic historical to underwhelming results. In prese"/>
 

The Forty Rules of Love

Elif Shafak, Author
Elif Shafak, Author . Viking $25.95 (354p) ISBN 978-0-670-02145-1
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Celebrated Turkish novelist Shafak (The Bastard of Istanbul ) serves up a curious blend of mediocre hen lit and epic historical to underwhelming results. In present-day Boston, dull suburban mother and cheated-on wife Ella Rubinstein takes a job as a reader for a literary agent and becomes entranced by Aziz Zahara, the author of a manuscript about the relationship between 13th-century poet Rumi and Sufi mystic Shams that, for better or for worse, becomes a story-within-a-story. Aziz and Ella strike up an e-mail relationship, largely made up of Ella's midlife crisis and Aziz's philosophical replies. Meanwhile, Aziz's novel, Sweet Blasphemy , is occasionally interesting but mostly dull, weighed down by Rufi's and Shams's theological musings. Its better moments concern tangential characters; Rumi's son, Aladdin, who is resentful of his father's closeness to the mystic, and Rumi's adopted daughter, Kimya, whose doomed marriage to Shams is touching in a way Ella's failed relationship with her husband never manages. The rumblings against Shams reach a peak, and Ella and Aziz finally meet, tying the story lines together into a readable, if not enthralling, tale. (Feb.)

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