The beauty salon Cleopatra serves as the nexus where the personal lives of Mouna, Imaan, Nina, Amal and Lailah converge, diverge and mature. Akhtar’s book offers readers a view of present day Beirut, a city struggling to get back to some semblance of normalcy after 15 years of civil war. Throughout the book, the author weaves back and forth from the private stories of each woman to their connectivity with each other and to the state of Lebanese society. Under the safety of the Cleopatra salon, these women’s lives are transformed. The book offers a vivid microcosm of Lebanese culture and history. The story is, at times, convoluted but there is a sense of resolution and clarity towards the end. The connection between the title Miel y Almendras (Honey and Almonds) and the story remains an enigma…or maybe not… the reader will be encouraged to find out.
Highly recommended for public libraries.