Nora Eldrige is a middle-aged, school teacher near Boston. She had always thought that she would become an artist. She would marry and have a home filled with children. Instead, she does have children (her students), and she does make art (as a little passion to pass the time). She is in a complete stasis, until she meets the Shahid's. This small family completely shakes up her life. It begins with curiosity which morphs quickly into a consuming-coveting obsession.
She first meets, Reza, as her student. He is foreign and beautiful; in desperate need to be cared for and watched over. Nora then meets Sirena, Reza's mother, who is also foreign and beautiful, but also an artist.
Sirena has the life that Nora so desperately pines for. Nora constructs reasons to see Sirena outside of school and soon they become friends. But friends in the way that you cannot fully love a wild-beautiful thing like Sirena. Nora begins to become jealous of the time the family spends without her and dwells on her feelings for them in a spiral of non-sensical thoughts.
The story itself is not what makes this book great. Its the voice of the narrator, Nora is incredibly authentic and moving. The narration cuts a bit deep for those of us single ladies, who may find themselves as the "woman upstairs."
The hype of the book made me a bit disappointed at first, but now that I've fully digested the material I see the beauty of it. This is not the best book written, this will not change your life, read it and love it for its own merit.
This is one of the few books that I've written in, I couldn't help myself. Messud is able to clearly explain things that I've felt myself but could never vocalize. Specifically, Nora, defines life as a fun house. She's been in the fun house for 40 years and wants to find the exit to real life. Do we all think this way? Or is it just us women upstairs?