THE PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE

image13

FICTION | PUBLISHED 2014

When eighteen-year-old Mary Elias falls in love with Isaac Kashogi, she decides the only way to have a future with him is for them to flee Lebanon together. Her family belongs to the powerful Maronite Christian sect, while Isaac’s is a family of Sunni Muslims. Tensions have been building up between these communities, to the point that Lebanon is on the brink of a civil war.

Tragedy strikes when Mary’s father has his third heart attack and dies upon receiving the news that his daughter has been arrested by Syrian immigration officials at the border the night of her escape with Isaac. Mary’s guilt makes her a prisoner of her own conscience, leading her to abandon Isaac and go with her mother and grandmother to the United States—her father’s wish before his demise.

As Mary builds a new life in America, trying to leave her ghosts behind her, Isaac’s enduring love for Mary is what sustains him through the horrors of the fifteen-year Lebanese Civil War. He intends to do whatever it takes to find Mary and build a life with her. But can he succeed in the face of such tremendous obstacles?

A powerful story of tragedy and romance, The Prisoner of Conscience delivers an important message to the world about reconciliation and tolerance 

REVIEWS

Star-crossed lovers attempt to overcome the odds in Abiola's (Realistic Hopes, 2014) historical novel.

The Lebanese Civil War exploded in 1975 due largely to the tension between Lebanon’s Christians and Muslims, and the conflict would last more than 15 years. When Mary, a Maronite Christian, falls in love with Isaac, a Sunni Muslim, the young, naïve couple have little hope for a bright future. They both know that their families won’t approve of their relationship, and so they plan to run away together to escape their cultures’ restrictions. Unfortunately, their plan is foiled soon after its inception, and leads to Mary’s father’s death. The couple splits when Mary immigrates to the United States with her mother and Isaac undertakes a new path of study in Lebanon. The far-flung lovers struggle to find their places in the world, encountering losses and successes in very different environments. Mary finds solace in her work with children in New York City and meets a potential love interest at the office. Meanwhile, Isaac studies English in Lebanon and obsessively plans for a future in which he can beg Mary’s forgiveness and win her back. Yet the violence of war and the disapproval of their families continue to threaten their future. Abiola’s novel provides a window into Middle Eastern history and offers a plea for religious tolerance and forgiveness. Although the history is fascinating, the love story is familiar: Mary is a classic heroine—an innocent beauty who falls quickly for a bad boy. Their young love withstands the test of time, although Isaac’s passion is disturbing in its ferocity and feels vaguely threatening. (Even Isaac’s doctor voices concern, noting that in almost eight years of counseling he “had not been able to reduce [Isaac’s] obsession with Mary.”) Abiola’s well-executed narrative neatly ties up its loose ends, however, providing a convincing ending.

A predictable but timely story that remains relevant in today’s political climate.

–  KIRKUS REVIEW