Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Ms. Haffar obtained an MLitt in English Literature from Oxford and has also written Beirut in Shades of Grey.
Contemporary women’s fiction
Released November 27, 2011
From the author:
“On the remote island of Puerto Franco, young Leah wades into the sea and disappears. Her body is never found. Thirty years later, visual artist Mar arrives on the island with her daughter, Lemay. She anticipates a haven where she can work on her craft, away from her controlling husband. Instead, Mar finds herself in the midst of a close-knit community haunted by a curse three-decades old.”
Leah is a lovely novel with many strong points. The story focuses on Mar’s journey toward independence and Sebastian’s struggle with the death of his sister and mother. The story is a unique kind of romance set on a harsh, unforgiving island.
The setting, actually, is one of my favorite elements. Puerto Franco, a small island with a tightly-knit community, is an active force in the story. Ms. Haffar brings the setting to life in vivid ways; the island is practically a character with its own personality. She uses the harshness and beauty of the scenery to create an atmospheric layer that really is gripping. I love novels that use setting as a catalyst, and I love the wildness of this setting in particular. Sebastian’s relationship with the ocean that took his family is yet another intriguing way Ms. Haffar uses Puerto Franco to shape the story.
The story itself is a very open one; the plot is deep and goes back thirty years, and the ending avoids tying everything up neatly. Sebastian and Mar help each other through a vital point of change, but life isn’t a simple thing and neither is their story. I won’t spoil the ending, but definitely read Leah for a gutsy, unexpected close to a heartfelt story.
My favorite element is the suspense. Ms. Haffar skillfully weaves suspense through nearly every scene; when I wasn’t reading the book, I was almost always thinking about it. The questions raised hovered in my mind and kept me wondering; the story has many twists I didn’t see coming, and the mystical elements enriched an already complex and atmospheric story. The supernatural touch is elegant, creepy, and gripping.