Friday, 10 October 2014

Bend like the Willow by Susan Glasier

Bend like the Willow by Alberta author Susan Glasier is a many-layered story of a young naïve American girl who sets out for her first year of university and finds instead a shocking introduction into a cross-cultural marriage of contradiction, mystery and eventual heartbreak. "If I take you to my country," he tells her, "you must learn to bend like the willow or you will snap."
Along the path to bending like the willow, she discovers that life in post-war Algeria with two babies is as fraught with danger and sadness as is the man she married. Both are burdened with hopes and expectations that can never be fulfilled. When war breaks out in the Middle East, he sends her away with his children promising they can return when there is peace.
In the end, Bend Like the Willow is the tale of a woman who loves a man and a man who loves his country. He is so committed to honouring his love of country and tradition that he fulfills the promise he made to his wife's father—even though it means breaking apart four lives.
"Susan Glasier has written a riveting memoir that reads like a novel. Bend Like the Willow is one of those rare books that gets under your skin and enters the bloodstream. It left me in tears."—Wolfgang Carstens, Epic Rites Press

"I couldn't put Bend Like the Willow down—read it in two nights—it really got my attention."—Roy Cust, R C Appraisals
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1 comment:

  1. Our time spent with author, Susan Glasier, was fascinating. Bend like the Willow is rich with discussion topics ranging from the naiveté of a girl raised in the 1950s, to the status of women in Muslim culture, to whether there is hope of westerners ever fully understanding the people of the Middle East and North Africa.
    Susan began by speaking of her motivation to write this book and the unexpected consequences the process of writing it had for her. Her marriage to Mohammed and their life in Algeria was unusual - in 1962 good, middle class, white girls did not go out with “brown boys”, let alone marry them and leave America to live in North Africa! While the marriage did not survive, they had two children together and those children and Susan’s grandchildren deserved to know their family history. She resolved that the truth, as she remembered it, must be the foundation of the work. That meant revealing very personal and sensitive details that had never been spoken of before and reliving events that had been long buried. Susan was forced to face her past, work to understand it and come to acceptance of the parts that she and Moe each played in the dissolution of their marriage.
    Susan’s mother was very domineering and, as a result, Susan learned early to be passive. The only child in an Armed Forces family, she had lived in many different places in the world, yet remained naïve to a point that shocked us. Even after he raped her, she continued dating Moe. He recognized the symptoms of her pregnancy; she did not. How could a nineteen year old girl college girl not know that she was pregnant? In many ways her innocence and passivity protected her from overwhelming culture shock of life in Algeria.
    Her departure with the children back to the U.S was abrupt and traumatic. War broke out in Algeria and American citizens were advised to leave. Would the children be viewed as American or Algerian? Mohammed, anxious to keep his family safe, used whatever influential people he knew to help get the family out. Although he cared for Susan and his children, on another level he was relieved to see them go for his marriage to an infidel hampered his ambitions to get ahead in his homeland. Their departure signaled the end of the marriage.

    It is really a remarkable experience to have a woman lay bare a portion of her life for others to examine. For that to happen, the woman must come to terms with her story. Susan told of her long, painful journey with honesty and insight.