Book Review: ‘A cushion for your love’ offers nothing

Saudi writer Zeinab Hefny published her latest book, “A Cushion for Your Love” earlier this year with Dar al-Saqi in Beirut. Hefny is the author previously of “Women on the Equator,” “I Cry No More” and “Your Control is My Freedom.”

“Cushion for Your Love” is a love story between Fatma, a widow in her forties, and Gaafar, a man ten years her junior. After the death of her beloved husband after 12 years of a happy marriage, Fatma welcomes a life of celibacy until the day her daughter, Waed, weds and leaves Saudi Arabia to study in London.  After months spent struggling with loneliness, Fatma travels to Lebanon with her friend Sawsan and meets Gaafar, a young Shiite man. Fatma, a Sunni, starts having a relationship with Gaafar. They meet secretly, even travelling together to Fatma’s house in Saudi Arabia.

In spite of its promise of love transcending social, religious, and generational gaps, the novel instead focuses on a cheap combination of love, sex, and adultery. It’s a plot that would seem to appeal only to the desperate. Sexual frustration is the main component of this not-so-innovative story, which uses its unimaginative storyline of an older woman and younger man falling in love in order to deliver its tawdry message.

The novel lacks creativity and substance, playing with a variety of recognizable cliches. It offers only minimal insight into a relatively liberal Saudi household and mere samples of a superficial Saudi female world–women who cheat on their husbands and others who resort to plastic surgery or witchcraft in order to keep their husbands. If the novel had delved more deeply into this little-seen world, it might have been able to keep this reader’s interest.

But heated and feverish love scenes were the author’s only tool to add spice to this dull novel. “Sunsets make me sad,” Fatma says to her lover during one of their meetings (how she manages to hold his attention with such lame dialogue is not explained). If there were a competition for the most dreary storyline, I am sure Hefny would get the grand prize.

Hefny’s novel, ultimately, goes beyond its boring premise to present a truly appalling message. “A Cushion for Your Love” seems to imply that the only reason a woman should become more aware of her surroundings is solely to please the man in her life. It’s an absurd and disgusting message wrapped up in a boring novel.

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