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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Sweet Book" Gets Great Review

Book Title: Kisses from a Distance
Genre: Nonfiction: Memoir
Author: Raff Ellis

Reviewed by A Diamond in Sunlight [actual name unknown]
Permission: Public domain

My new position leaves me with free time on weekends (a luxury I haven’t enjoyed for years), as well as roughly 20 minutes of commuting time every morning and evening. I’ve been putting all this time to good use by catching up on a shelf’s worth of books that I have ordered over the course of the past year but not yet found time to read.

The first was the bittersweet family memoir Kisses from a Distance, written by Raff Ellis (Elias). His maternal grandmother was the product of an unhappy alliance between members of two elite Maronite families in Ottoman Syria: the Hobeiches and the el Khazens. Elite, but deeply impoverished – which is what led their son, a man with the Hobeiche name and the desire for financial security to match, to marry off his sister to a ‘nameless’ young Lebanese man newly returned from the United States to look for a local bride, with a general goods store and bright prospects for the future. That man and that auctioned-off woman would become Ellis’s parents – and despite the initial promises, they ended up living a very hard life, trying to keep their store (and family) afloat.

Ellis moves charmingly from one side of his family to another, and intersperses the history of their lives with his own memories of visiting Lebanon in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The book is published by Cune Press, a small but very good Seattle-base publishing house, which has published a number of books on the Middle East and Arab culture. Kisses from a Distance is a sweet book, but its not a fairytale. I cheered for the Ellises when their store did well, and I grieved for them when tragedies struck.

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