The Bread of Angels: A Journey to Love and Faith
A riveting memoir about one woman's journey into Syria under the Baathist regime and an unexpected love story between two strangers searching for meaning.
When Stephanie Saldaña arrives in Damascus, she is running away from a broken heart and a haunted family history that she has crossed the world to escape. Yet as she moves into a tumbling Ottoman house in the heart of the Old City, she is unprepared for the complex world that awaits her: an ancient capital where Sunni and Shia Muslims, Christians, Alawites, Kurds, and Palestinian and Iraqi refugees share a fragile co-existence.
Soon she is stumbling through the Arabic language, fielding interviews from the secret police, and struggling to make the city her own. But as the political climate darkens and the war in neighboring Iraq threatens to spill over, she flees to an ancient Christian monastery carved into the desert cliffs, where she is forced to confront the life she left behind. Soon she will meet a series of improbable teachers: an iconoclastic Italian priest, a famous female Muslim sheikh, a wounded Iraqi refugee, and Frédéric, a young French novice monk who becomes her best friend.
What follows is a tender story of a woman falling in love: with God, with her own life, with a country on the brink of chaos, and with a man she knows she can never have. Wise, funny, and heartbreaking, The Bread of Angels celebrates the hope that appears even in war, the surprising places we can call home, and the possibility of true love.
“Beautiful. . . . A lovely book, filled with human longing and redemption and dazzling discoveries about faith in its many forms.” —The Oregonian
“[A] poignant memoir about hitting rock bottom in love and faith. . . . Inspired and powerful. . . . This is a fresh, courageous book that gives new meaning to the word memoir.” —Dallas Morning News
“A Middle Eastern Eat, Pray, Love.” —The Washington Post Book World
“Tragic, hopeful, bittersweet, tender and insightful.” —Austin American-Statesman
“Beautifully written. . . . The Bread of Angels is simultaneously a window into an alien culture, a spiritual journey, and a love story.” —The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA)
“Brace yourself for an intense inner and outer journey. The Bread of Angels is a many-layered personal story, ricocheting from Damascus to Texas to the desert fathers to scruffy Cambridge. A passionate young scholar confronts war, love, the mysteries of language, and God. Stephanie Saldaña is up to the task. A brilliant debut.” —Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun
“A fascinating, back-alley travelogue of contemporary Damascus, as well as journey to the core of the Quran. Most of all, [The Bread of Angels] is an inspiring document of battle-tested faith.” —San Antonio Express-News
“What sets Saldaña’s book apart from so many others is the very convincing way in which she writes about prayer—and the difficulty of praying.” —Newsweek
“A remarkable, wise, and lovely book from a truly gifted new writer, The Bread of Angels brims with originality and insight. There is poetry here—the language and the depth of attention recall the young Annie Dillard. But this is, above all, a love story, and a compelling one. Not many people can write transcendent, mystical prose and also create a page-turner that keeps you up nights. Stephanie Saldaña’s achievement is extraordinary.” —Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March