Publisher Viking, February 2010

In this lyrical, imaginative new novel, acclaimed author Elif Shafak unfolds two parallel narratives—one contemporary and the other set in the thirteenth century, when the Sufi poet and mystic Rumi encountered his spiritual mentor, the infamous wandering dervish known as Shams of Tabriz. Both stories together incarnate Rumi’s timeless message of love.

American housewife Ella Rubenstein is forty years old and unhappily married when she takes a job as a reader for a literary agent. Her first assignment is to read and report on a work of fiction called Sweet Blasphemy, written by a man named Aziz Zahara. Zahara’s novel, which is told in many different voices, tells of Shams’s search for Rumi and the dervish’s role in transforming the successful but unhappy cleric into a committed mystic, passionate poet, and advocate of love. In an age of deeply embedded bigotries and clashes, Rumi dared to break free of all conventional rules, to stand for a universal spirituality and an inner-oriented jihad, where the aim was to struggle against and prevail over one’s ego. Not everyone welcomed these ideas, however, and the powerful spiritual bond between Rumi and Shams became the target of rumor, slander, and attack.

Becoming increasingly mesmerized by this tale, and growing more distant from her husband, Ella begins to question her protected, insular life and to reach out to Aziz, who lives in Amsterdam. She is also taken with Shams’s lessons, or rules, which offer insight into an ancient philosophy based on the unity of all peoples and religions and the presence of love in each and every one of us. As Ella reads on, she realizes that Rumi’s story mirrors her own and that Aziz—like Shams—has come to set her free, to transform her in a way she never could have imagined.

The Forty Rules of Love brings together East and West, past and present, to provide a compelling, dramatic, and exuberant account of how love works in the world.

“In The Forty Rules of Love, Elif Shafak has woven a wonderful tale of love and spiritual longing, brilliantly exploring the universal desire for intimacy— with another human being, as well as with the divine. It is provocative in the best sense of that term, a rare novel that succeed in illuminating the mystical aspects of daily existence, a novel of intelligence as well as heart, with wisdom that infuses every page.”
-- Roland Merullo, author of A Little Love Story and Breakfast with Buddha

“The Forty Rules of Love is a wise, joyous page-turner . . . and one that speaks urgently to our war-ravaged times.”
-- Thrity Umrigar, author of The Space Between Us

“How can I love well? With The Forty Rules of Love, you can pour out your heart, break out of your stuck places, mysteriously fall in love, and find the deep joy of freedom.”
-- Jack Kornfield, author of The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology

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