The Forty Rules of Love – by Elif Shafak

I am not a critique or a regular book reviewer, but this book forced me to write about it. First of all, I guess the timing for me to read this one could not have been better as we are all locked up in our homes, these are indeed testing times and have immense potential to push our sanity to its penultimate limit. But while reading this book, I started to realize that I really needed this time, to better reflect on myself, my behavior, my choices and also my reactions (more so the patterns) on the most mundane things. I will not say it changed me overnight, but it definitely had me thinking. In fact, it has been a week since I finished reading this book, I am still unable to start a new one with the same interest. I started two books and left them after reading maybe ten-odd pages as I was not able to connect well with them, or you can call it the hangover of the one I going to talk about.

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It started with a glimpse into Ella’s life, a middle-aged family woman who so far had been content being a “mother, wife, the dog walker and the housekeeper” which kept her busy enough, but since her children were growing up now, she was not needed as much now. Two weeks short of turning 40, she starts working with a literary agency in Boston (her husband helps her find this job). This sheer monotony of Ella’s life is so relatable to most of us, especially after a couple of years or marriage and kids, this is exactly what happens. This very connection served as a major hook for me to leave everything else and get engrossed in this book. Here was a story about a woman who has had a share of struggles and is attempting to change her life – I think that is a subject I want to know more about.

What caught me off the guard was how magnificently the teaching of Sufism has been blended into this book and for all the people who feel that we want to stay away from all the “Gyaan”, trust me it’s worth giving a shot. Without spilling out too many details, what stood out in the book was Shams of Tabriz, how beautifully the character grows on you with every chapter and I was so intrigued by his ways that I could not help but wonder, have I ever encountered someone like him in my life – somebody who changed the way I look at life itself and in a way transformed me (not like a project makeover sort like the makeup counters we see in malls) – but in the most subtle of ways. Looking back, I realized all the people we meet in life, who have either given us great grief or joy change us, for the better. I told you this book had me thinking and reflect and that’s what clearly sets it apart from others.

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The whole journey of Ella and Aziz, Shams and Rumi and a lot more important characters just wraps you in and takes you back in time. With every new test Rumi faces, you absorb the fact that no great teacher is born great, it’s his experience which makes him great and it will only happen when you risk your image, ego, beliefs and go out and explore the real world. What it really means to step out of your comfort zone to expand your learning or rather at times unlearn is what Rumi’s journey is, while he strives to fulfill his destiny.

I cannot say this book will appeal to everyone and I strongly feel you need to be ready to be able to relish the gem this book is, but for those who are ready to take the plunge, I know you will not be disappointed. It’s a treasure you want to go back to, time and again whenever you feel you are struggling in life, it has an answer for you, all you need to do is look.

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