Book Review: The Seven Perfumes of Sacrifice

 Author Amy Logan’s tragic yet inspiring novel begins with an explosion on a bus in Tel Aviv, Israel. The central character, referred to as Fareby, is an American journalist from Riverside, California who travels to Tel Aviv to cover a story. She meets a young Druze woman, named Leila Azzam, in which a kind of friendship develops. Leila is not Muslim, Christian or Jewish but belongs to an Arabic-speaking minority that is isolated and extremely religious. Like many Middle Eastern customs, the Druze beliefs place severe limits on how women can behave. In this community if a woman is accused of bringing shame upon the family name she can be killed; sometimes by her own family. The practice is known as an honor killing.

In her book, Logan illustrates that this tradition has existed for thousands of years and can occur with little or no warning to its victims. A woman can be executed for being raped, losing her virginity prior to marriage or by refusing to accept an arranged marriage; generally, any kind of behavior which the family or community deems inappropriate. However, Leila is not the typical Druze woman. She refuses to abide by the restrictions placed upon her life. She is incredibly intelligent and resourceful. So much so, that her parents allow her to attend The University of Haifa on a full scholarship. In addition to this, Leila has an American boyfriend. She is a painter and sells her paintings in a gallery. She also owns a cell phone. All of the above behaviors are considered to be immoral according to Druze custom and serve as grounds for her execution. Ultimately, Leila’s attempts to keep her life away from home a secret; are in vain. She is later murdered. Utterly devastated, Fareby begins the arduous journey to find Leila’s killer. In doing so she is forced to deal with her own demons, her relationship to her work and to the country itself.

The Seven Perfumes of Sacrifice is a thorough, contemplative book that forces it’s readers to look at the Middle East with a broader lens. The quarrelsome, habitually violent relationship between Palestinians and Jews has long been slathered across American media, but Logan’s writing not only raises awareness about an issue that is seldom discussed. She humanizes it in a way that encourages us to use more than intellect or politics when considering the plight of women in other cultures. She urges us to remember our hearts.

By Rebecca Nichloson