I cried multiple times while reading As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow. I’m not a big crier when I read, but Katouh wrung tears out of me. As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow is an emotional story about perseverance and love. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
Salama Kassab was a pharmacy student when the cries for freedom broke out in Syria. She still had her parents and her big brother; she still had her home. She had a normal teenager’s life.
Now Salama volunteers at a hospital in Homs, helping the wounded who flood through the doors daily. Secretly, though, she is desperate to find a way out of her beloved country before her sister-in-law, Layla, gives birth. So desperate, that she has manifested a physical embodiment of her fear in the form of her imagined companion, Khawf, who haunts her every move in an effort to keep her safe.
But even with Khawf pressing her to leave, Salama is torn between her loyalty to her country and her conviction to survive. Salama must contend with bullets and bombs, military assaults, and her shifting sense of morality before she might finally breathe free. And when she crosses paths with the boy she was supposed to meet one fateful day, she starts to doubt her resolve in leaving home at all.
Soon, Salama must learn to see the events around her for what they truly are—not a war, but a revolution—and decide how she, too, will cry for Syria’s freedom.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
As Long as the Lemon Trees is emotional. It’s a story which will wring your heart not only in Katouh’s depictions of Syria – and the destruction and lives lost – but also in the heart of the characters. They form the foundation of this story. And I fell in love with Salama instantly. The way she is torn between seeking an escape or staying to help, to risk her life, and to run herself into the ground. Because that kind of decision is one that not all of us will know in our life.
Plagued with hallucinations to remind her of all at stake, Salama is haunted by the promises she has made to the ones we love. While she has demonstrated incredible fortitude and strength, there’s no denying that it’s also been what has been required of her. To survive, to answer the call of those around her. As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow is a story about sacrifice. About purpose versus safety. And about our own choices. It’s also a story about hope. All the ways we can find a sliver of happiness amongst our purpose and faced with loss. At the same time, As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow explores the meaning of home.
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About how we can honor it, keep it alive, and protect it. Days after finishing, I am still so emotionally moved by the characters and the story, but the characters are where this debut shines. As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow contains character depth and detail, their struggles and hopes. If you’re looking for an important YA Contemporary to read and one full of heart, find As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org & The Book Depository.