The Forty Rules of Love

Elif Shafak, Penguin Books (2010).

The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak 9780141047188 (Paperback, 2011)

I purchased this book on a lark in Istanbul in 2013. I wanted a book by a Turkish writer, and the bookseller said this author was very popular. The title didn’t appeal to me; I tend to avoid anything that smells like “RULES”. Maybe that’s the anarchist in me. This title and the cover design connote a sappy love story. Ugh!

I decided to give the book to my soon-to-be daughter-in-law, a librarian. (No hidden message there. She certainly didn’t need any rules to live by nor any advice about love!) I just thought she might appreciate it.

A year later, she returned it to me, thinking that I might need a book to read on my flight. I don’t recall if she said she’d read it or not, but today I know it was fortuitous that it ended up back in my lap. I consider it one of the most significant books I’ve read in my adult life.

The story jumps back and forth between a married woman (Ella) in Northampton, Massachusetts in 2008, and Rumi, a thirteenth century poet and Shams of Tabriz.  The glue that holds the story together is the manuscript that Aziz Z. Zahara sent to the publisher which is assigned to Ella for review. In the process of reading the manuscript and emailing Aziz, her life is turned upside down. They finally meet, but I won’t give away the ending.

Full disclosure:  I found only 39 rules.  They really speak to me, not about romantic love. These are rules about how to live life. Intuitively, I believe these rules speak the Truth. Whether Sufi, Christian, Jew or Muslim ….. there is a common Truth that guides humanity.

I hope you’ll read Forty Rules of Love, but if it doesn’t catch your imagination now, you can skim through the 39 rules here.





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