The Fig Orchard by Layla Fiske, repost

Another quick re-post of this awesome book and author interview.

The Fig Orchard
By Layla Fiske
5 Stars

I read this book a couple of weeks ago and I deliberately left it to review, I wanted to give it a good amount of time to settle over my soul.  What I feel when I think of The Fig Orchard is sadness, not because this was an overly sad book (don’t get me wrong I did cry like a baby) or a bad book, no it makes me sad because no one is reading it.

What it's about 

The unforgettable story of a woman splintered by war and cultural mores, desperately struggling to hold her family together, THE FIG ORCHARD is a rich, compelling epic of love, heroism, family and empowerment. In an isolated, tradition-bound village high above the Jordan River, balancing delicately amidst age-old superstitions and religious orthodoxy, Nisrina Huniah, a fifteen-year-old girl, is torn between innocent imaginings and looming apprehensions as she marries a man she has never met, only to fall in love on the night they are wed. Her joy takes a heart-wrenching turn when the encroaching World War fiercely shatters her reality, propelling her on an unexpected journey where she develops friendships that ultimately alter her perception of herself and the world around her. Beautifully written, this sweeping epic of love and friendship, longing, and the hope of redemption is woven into a colorful tapestry that comes alive against the vibrant backdrop of life in early twentieth-century Middle East. With its haunting and deeply affecting ending, THE FIG ORCHARD will remain in the hearts and minds of its readers long after the last page is turned

What I thought

This is a beautiful coming of age story about a strong girl in a time and place where women’s rights meant nothing, women were things to be owned and controlled. It is about love, and how love can heal you, whether it be the love of a husband, a child or a friend.

As I said it was beautiful, the writing is wonderful, detailed, magical and realistic. I was whisked off to a time and place I have never really thought about, set in the Middle East, I was made to think about the long lasting effects of WW1 even in the small towns. It was obvious that the author knew what she was talking about, and had done her research.  They do say write what you know and  did that so well, my god the food sounded so real, I was hungry the whole time reading this. When I wasn’t reading It, I was thinking about reading it trying to find an extra 5 minutes here and there. The character development was outstanding and heartbreaking and everything just had a real sense of realism to it. It was a bit predictable in places, but you know what? I didn’t care.

My heart just broke for Nisrina more than once.  It was a hard life for her growing up, no real mother and a father that couldn’t stand to look at her. She was used as a maid, baby sitter and tolerated at best till she came of age and was sold off as quick as look at you. Jabran was fascinated with Nisrina from the first moment he saw her and he knew as soon as he could he would make her his bride. He was a gentle old soul with a sense and understanding of the world that many men didn’t have after a life time. He just wanted to live his life, love his family and tend to his fig orchard.

I loved that after her childhood she found real love with Jabran. I felt it and believed it, I believed he loved her with his whole being, he saw her for her, not just as a women to be owned and bear his children. He loved the woman she was and was happy spending the rest of his life loving her, but that all changed when one day he was taken and enslaved into Turkish army.

My only real complaint is I hungered for more interaction between Nisrina and Jabran. I wanted to hear their talks and see their love…btw when I say "see" I don’t mean the sexy bits, I am rather pleased they were left out , I don’t think they would have added anything to this story. I just wanted more interaction between the two.

On a side note I do find it hard to read historical books with my modern day brain. I find my inner feminist comes out and I want to rage at the more than once I had to remind myself that this is set in a very different time and place.

Over all this book has made its way into my heart and onto my favorite shelf. It is one that I know I will read again and highly recommend it to EVERYONE.

Author Interview

Layla Fiske The wonderful creative author of The Fig Orchard

Layla Fiske was born in Detroit, Michigan and grew up in Southern California. The daughter and granddaughter of immigrants, she was raised with the rich culture, language and foods of the Middle East. A graduate of San Diego State University, she completed a career in the field of land use management while raising two children. Now the grandmother of two, she lives in San Diego with her husband. THE FIG ORCHARD is her first novel.

1: Have you always wanted to be a writer, or is it something that just sort of happened and you fell in love with?

I've always loved reading books and writing. As a very young girl (elementary school age) I was reading some of the classics like Oliver Twist, Jane Eyre, Anna Karenina. I loved to read and loved to create stories both verbally and in writing. The Fig Orchard was a story that I carried around in my head since I was a little girl, but it wasn't until after I had grown up, raised my family and retired from my day job that I could quiet the chatter of the world and focus my mind on making it into a serious novel.

2: Are any of your characters based on people you know, if yes who and how??

Yes! The Fig Orchard was inspired by certain events that shaped my grandmother’s life. Like my main character Nisrina, my grandmother was born in Palestine in 1896 and was married at a young age through an arranged marriage. Also like Nisrina, when pregnant with her third child, her husband was captured by Ottoman Turkish soldiers to fight against the advancing British troops in World War I. And like Nisrina, when her husband failed to return home from the war, she became a midwife in order to support her children, refusing to remarry and relinquish her children to her husband’s family.

3: What time of the day do you like to write?

I find that my mind is most creative very, very early in the morning. In writing “The Fig Orchard,” I would usually wake at 3 a.m. with thoughts, sentences, and ideas just racing through my head. I couldn't turn it off. I would jump out of bed and start writing, and then I’d continue on into the morning and most times throughout the day.

4:  What's your fave way to tackle writers block?

I would walk away from the computer. I’d go about my day, get on with the details of my life, not stressing or worrying about it. I’d find that my mind, on a sub-conscious level would still be in the story. Then, when I was ready – it may be a few days later, things would start to gel and I’d start writing again. Sometimes it would be just a sentence. A voiced response in a conversation. Then, later, maybe another sentence. He said. She said. And before I knew it I’d have gotten through the hump.

5:  How many physical books do you own? (Under 100? over 500?)

LOL. I’m not really sure without counting (they’re all over the house) – maybe somewhere in-between 100-500?

6: What do you listen to when you write? Silence? Nature sounds? Music?

Good question! When I write I like complete silence. My mind is in another place and time. I don’t even hear if someone is talking to me. But, when I was not writing, I liked to listen to Leonard Cohen’s cd from his concert “Live in London.” His deep alluring voice, his tempo, his pacing, the words – it was magic, like a muse to me.

7: Where do you do most of your writing? Do you have a home office/studio?

I write on a small table in a corner of my little guest bedroom, facing a wall. Door closed. Again, no distractions that way. It allowed me to disappear into my head, into my fictional world of words, and characters, and story lines.

8: What do you write with? Pen paper, laptop, and typewriter? Do you write notes as you go? if so what on?

I use a laptop; and no I don’t write notes as I go. I keep it all in my head; it swirls around in there waiting for me to sit down and let it out. Sometimes when I am researching, I will write notes for critical dates, historical events, timing of the story, dates and ages of the children as the story progresses - that sort of thing.

9: Your favorite book.

Oh gosh, that’s a hard one, there are so, so many. If I had to pick only one book today, I’d have to say Khaled Hosseini’s “A Thousand Splendid Suns” is my favorite. I felt that it was a perfect blend of culture, tension, characters, pacing and story-telling. I loved it!
But honestly, I could list so many. I’m currently reading “The Book Thief” and I’m seriously thinking that it will take its place adjacent to “A Thousand Splendid Suns” as one of my all-time favorites.

10:What is one of your favorite quotes?

“In the end, only kindness matters.” (Jewel’s ‘Hands’) Because, frankly, it’s so very true.

11: What other crafts do you dabble in?

I try to stay fit and eat very healthy. I practice yoga, Pilates, and try to do a daily walk/jog along the beach or on a canyon/mountain trail (in nature).

12: What were you good at in school, and what did see  yourself being as an adult?

Hmm. That’s a hard one. I have to admit that I always enjoyed school. I liked learning. I loved reading and writing. I was born and raised in America, but my father was not. He immigrated to America from Palestine in 1939. And he carried with him the old world ideas that girls did not need an education. They only needed to know how to cook, and clean, and sew – be a good wife to their husbands. Well, that wasn't for me. I was very determined to get a college education. So, long story short, I put myself through college. I worked full-time and went to college, sometimes taking classes late into the night. It wasn't easy, it took a long time; but education was, and still is, extremely important to me. I think it’s the road map to making this a better world.

Toilet paper over or under: Over, definitely!
Beer, Wine, Sprits? Not for me. I drink water and herbal teas.
Pjs, Nighty, Nothing? A lady never tells.
Rock or Pop? Popular Contemporary
5 Star resort or Camping: Oh, five-star resort for sure!!
Cats or Dogs? Equal
Morning or Night? Early morning. I love the dawn.
McDonalds or Burger King? Neither.
The Simpsons or Family Guy? The Simpsons
Coke or Pespi? Either one really. But I rarely drink soda.
Batman or Superman? Superman
Chocolate or Vanilla? Both! Can never decide.
Summer or Winter? Winter for sure; although in San Diego there’s not a big difference.
Shower or Bath? Depends on my mood.
Countryside or Big city? Countryside.
Fame or Money? Not sure. I have neither. LOL.
Piercings or Tattoos? Neither; although I do have pierced ears, so I guess…
Mac or PC? PC (although I keep an open mind about MAC, and think maybe one day I’ll learn it.)
Mermaids or Unicorns? They’re both awesome.
Hermoine Granger or Bella Swan? Hermoine Granger


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