Cynthia Cannell Literary Agency
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Emily Robbins


Emily Robbins has lived and worked across the Middle East and North Africa. As a 2007-2008 Fulbright Fellow in Syria, she lived with the family of a leading intellectual and studied religion and language with a women's mosque movement. Emily holds a BA from Swarthmore College and an MFA from Washington University in St. Louis.

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“Robbins’ melodic novel is a story of war, family, language, but above all, a paean to unabashed, unbridled love. Told in quiet but elegant prose, each thump of this melodic novel’s heart (and what an enormous, rousing heart it is) attests to the timeless and life-giving power of love.”

—Khaled Hosseini, New York Times-bestselling author of THE KITE RUNNER

*One of’s “7 Books You Need to Read in January 2017* 
*One of Bustle’s “15 New Authors You’re Going To Be Obsessed With This Year”* 
*A January 2017 Vogue (UK) “VOGUEnotices” Pick* 
*One of BookRiot’s “12 New Books for Winter 2017”*

A mesmerizing debut, A WORD FOR LOVE is the spare and exquisitely told story of a young woman transformed by language, risk, war, and a startling new understanding of love.

It is said there are ninety-nine Arabic words for love. Bea, an American exchange student, has learned them all: in search of deep feeling, she travels to a Middle Eastern country known to hold the “The Astonishing Text,” an ancient, original manuscript of a famous Arabic love story that is said to move its best readers to tears. But once in this foreign country, Bea finds that instead of intensely reading Arabic she is entwined in her host family’s complicated lives — as they tuck their hair away, lock the doors, and whisper anxiously about impending revolution.

Suddenly, instead of the ancient love story she sought, it is her daily witness of a contemporary Romeo-and-Juliet-like romance — between a housemaid and policeman of different cultural and political backgrounds — that astonishes her, changes her, and makes her weep. But as the country drifts toward explosive unrest, Bea questions how many secrets she can keep, and how long she can fight for a romance that does not belong to her. Ultimately, in a striking twist, Bea’s own story begins to mirror that of The Astonishing Text that drew her here in the first place — not in the role of one of the lovers, as she might once have imagined, but as the character who lives to tell the story long after the lovers have gone.



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