Turnkey Press, $16.95, ISBN 0-9740030-3-4
Contemporary Romance, 2003
I hate to say this as the author has obviously put much of his effort and passion into this book and it’s obviously a labor of love, but Surreal Eternity is flat. I become very intrigued with this book as it is about the relationship of a Muslim man and a Jewish woman. Unfortunately, the author’s good intentions about promoting peace and harmony between cultures soon get the better of him and this book turns into a soapbox.
Muhammed “Ha-med” Hassan’s wife Sabira died after giving birth to their daughter Aneesa. Carole Meyer lost her husband in a car accident and she is now the single mother of two children as well as working at the Charles Cohen Community Clinic. These two meet at the hospital grounds and fall in love. But it won’t be easy for them as prejudices and some very angry busybodies will try and come between them.
Surreal Eternity alternates between the flashbacks to these characters’ previous relationships and their developing relationship. Since I’m always up for some meaty romance that addresses issues relevant to today’s world, I have high hopes for this book. Alas, instead of creating realistic characters, Mr Branfman instead makes Ha-med a superhero that cannot do wrong, makes epic speeches about peace and tolerance, and generally goes around being a walking World Peace poster. Carole fares no better: she is an amazingly open-minded woman, she is an excellent mother, she loves Ha-med so much, wow. It is unfortunate that Ms Branfman subscribes to the Nicholas Sparks school of writing where the characters are flat and come off more like fantasy caricatures rather than realistic people.
And then there’s the prose, it’s often too flowery for its own good, and the love scenes are purple. I have no idea what “the loud crack of dawn” is supposed to mean or how the dawn can crack loudly to awaken Ha-med. Is Mr Branfman referring to the muezzin? Awkward phrases like this one serve more to distract me from the story than to enhance its readability.
Surreal Eternity has lots of heart in the right places, but the overly sugary prose and the flat and unrealistically heroic characters won’t cut it, I’m afraid.