As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow

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As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow
Author(s)
Age Range
14+
Release Date
September 13, 2022
ISBN
9780316351379
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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.

Editor reviews

2 reviews
powerful and unflinching look at the war in Syria
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
AS LONG AS THE LEMON TREES GROW is an unflinching and heartbreaking story about war, trauma, and love. Salama had just finished her first year of pharmacy school when war broke out in Syria. Now, she is volunteering at the hospital as a surgeon, an untimely and horrific promotion, as she tends to the many casualties that come through the door. She remembers the before, when she was a different person with different hopes and dreams, and is faced by the now, where her only family remaining is Layla, her friend and sister-in-law, who is pregnant with her niece.

Salama is haunted by her trauma in the form of Khawf, someone only she can see, who speaks to her worst fears and memories. Her city is under siege with snipers targeting pregnant women and the elderly, and children facing explosives and chemical warfare. She does her best to help the people who come into the hospital, but they are all starving and facing food and medicine shortages that become more pronounced by the day. Salama is trying to honor her promise to her brother to take care of Layla, but the only way she might be able to do so is to buy a smuggler to get them to a boat, which would require a treacherous ride to Europe that they may not survive. Time is running out with Layla's delivery looming closer.

Just as she is deciding to leave, she meets Kenan, the boy she had been supposed to meet before everything happened when he comes to ask for her help for his little sister whose shrapnel wounds have become worse. They connect, and she dreams of how her life would have been if everything had not happened, while they also look to the future - something they see differently but both through the eyes that love Syria and want desperately to hold onto the only family they have left.

What I loved: This is a heartbreaking account of the war in Syria and the many casualties it has created, while understanding why the people continue to fight against the injustices and the horrors there. Salama is such a beautiful character, haunted by her traumas and promises while doing everything in her power to help those around her. Through her eyes, readers are pulled into the conflict and the tragedy/horror of what is happening in Syria, making it more than just a news story.

While the story is certainly full of the true horrors of the Syrian war, it also manages to portray the reason why people are still involved and why it is so difficult to leave. The story also presents the power of connection through the relationship that forms between Kenan and Salama. Amidst the tragedy and the terrible things happening, they have found each other and a new form of support as well as someone to share their evolving visions of the future. Their stories infuse hope into the novel, making it feel unputdownable as the reader follows their dreams and traumas.

While the exact timeline was altered, the book is based on true events of the ongoing war, and as such, really brings the atrocities to light for readers around the globe. As part of this, there are certainly warnings needed for sensitive readers around these events - the book does not mince words and really brings all of these elements to life in Salama's story. It is evocative and powerful, sure to make readers feel her pain and sorrows as they experience these traumas with her.

Final verdict: A consuming and powerful story of war and tragedy, AS LONG AS THE LEMON TREES GROW is a beautiful, unflinching, and horrific read that is sure to leave an impact after the last page is turned.
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As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow
(Updated: July 07, 2022)
Overall rating
 
4.7
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
AS LONG AS THE LEMON TREES GROW by Zoulfa Katouh is an upper-YA novel set amidst the Syrian revolution. Salama, a budding young pharmacy student, has been forced into a role at the hospital she wasn’t prepared for as many medical professionals were killed in the resistance. Salama, no stranger to death, lost her mother after her father and brother were arrested at a protest. Practically alone and wrestling with whether or not she should flee her home country, Salama meets Kenan, who also lost his parents, but is committed to staying in Syria. As the military closes in around them, Salama’s head and heart debate over what to do. If she stays in Syria, it seems like a matter of time before she is killed too, but if she leaves and survives the crossing, she may arrive in Europe dead on the inside.

Every element of this book is fantastic. Katouh takes Salama on the most heartbreaking, yet hopeful journey, and does so with vivid prose, serendipity, romance, and brutality. The story never shies away from the truth of what Syrian people are facing, which allows readers to imagine themselves in that situation. Personalizing tragedies that are happening seemingly far away forces us to not only acknowledge them, but to also not look away. Because of that, it’s important to note the book’s setting as it may be triggering for those with a sensitivity to war imagery and devastation. That aside, this novel, while fiction, is based on and around real historic events. Frankly, it should be required reading and is a great introduction to what’s been happening in Syria for those who may have been previously uninformed.

That being said, while this novel explores difficult and painful themes, it doesn’t make it any less magical. Each character feels fully realized, including Syria itself. This book comes alive on the page and is just as unpredictable as real life. I was scared for Salama every time she walked from the hospital to home or elsewhere. I felt her despondence every time she had a new patient she didn’t know how to save. I felt her butterflies every time she talked to Kenan. I cared about her deeply and rooted for her and all the other characters to survive. There are multiple twists in the story I never would have predicted, and it kept me on my toes, just like the characters are. In fact, I didn’t want to stop reading. I would’ve preferred to not have an epilogue and to see everything that transpired after the last chapter.

Katouh masterfully weaves many threads together to form a raw, nuanced, and deeply human plot that will make you think, swoon, and brace for impact. AS LONG AS THE LEMON TREES GROW should be on the top of your must-read list.
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