cover image As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow

As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow

Zoulfa Katouh. Little, Brown, $18.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-316-35137-9

Katouh’s powerful debut, a speculative novel set amid the Syrian Revolution, follows one Syrian 17-year-old’s struggles balancing duty to her country and to herself. Before the Arab Spring, Salama Kassab dreamed of studying herbology, becoming a pharmacist, and traveling the world. Now, a year after the 2011 uprising, she’s volunteering as a de facto surgeon at her local hospital, tending to those wounded in the violence surrounding them. Following Mama’s death and the military arrests of Baba and her brother, Salama cares for her pregnant sister-in-law, Layla, who wants Salama to arrange them both passage on a boat to Germany. But Salama’s hesitancy to flee her country in its time of need, coupled with a budding relationship with Kenan Aljendi, whom she met after treating his younger sister, leaves her feeling unmoored. Her trauma manifests into a PTSD-induced hallucinatory companion named Khawf, who dispenses advice and forces her to examine her responsibilities to Layla, Kenan, herself, and Syria. Katouh’s lyrical prose, combined with a moving portrayal of first love, unflinchingly depicts both the costs of revolution, and the strength it takes to fight for one’s beliefs. Ages 14–up. Agent: Alexandra Levick, Writers House. (Sept.)