By Krista Bremer
Algonquin Books, $24.95, 287 pages
Krista Bremer writes with astounding candor. My Accidental Jihad begins slowly. She seems content, yet describes her life as well as her male companions in brief, staccato terms. Taking her father’s advice to move away from the California Ocean and surfing, she heads to graduate school in landlocked North Carolina.
In lieu of surfing, she runs and it is on these runs that she meets Ismail. They share stories of their past, hers in America and his in Libya. When she becomes pregnant, they marry. These are the bare facts, and only the beginning.
“According to Ismail, the prophet Muhammad taught that the greatest jihad, or struggle, of our lives is not the one that takes place on a battlefield but the one that takes place within our hearts – the struggle, as I understood it, to manifest humility, wisdom, and compassion. Ramadan threw me into my own accidental jihad, forcing me to wrestle with my intolerance and self-absorption. And I had been losing ground in this battle, forgetting my husband’s intentions and focusing instead on the petty ways I was inconvenienced by his practice.”
Her jihad, her spiritual struggle, heightens as she watches the practice of her Muslim husband through his daily prayers and yearly month-long fast. When they later journey to Libya, she learns more about their differences and how narrow her American-born views have been.
Bremer’s writing is imbued with vivid descriptions of places and encounters as well as her introspective reviews of her responses. She paints a balanced picture of a life and love that struggles and endures. Her story is an engaging and delightful read.
Reviewed by Mary-Lynne Monroe
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