Well, I joined the Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge when the first book I had on hold at the library came in. It was "The Blood of Flowers" by Anita Amirrezvani.
The book takes place in 17th century Persia in the area of modern Iran. It tells the story of a young girl's coming-of-age and loss of innocence following her father's death. She and her mother, due to their Islamic culture which incidentally reminded me of Naomi and Ruth of the Old Testament, are basically left with no support, no immediate family, and only distant relatives in a busy city a long way away. However, the girl is extremely talented in the making of rugs. This skill gets them in to see the distant relatives but become basically slaves in that household due to their powerless stature. And, again due to their position, the girl is left with poor marriage options which leads her into an Islam tradition of a 3-month renewable marriage contract where she learns (in the more racy parts of the book) how to keep that husband happy so he'll continue to "keep"her.
The young girl (who is left nameless in the tradition of all but the most famous master craftspeople who make Persia rugs) is the narrator. Seeing Islam as a religion and as a social structure from the "inside" was intriguing to me since I grew up in an area of Michigan with the largest Arab population outside the Middle East. Seeing how they would have look at Christians- in particular the Scandinavian who comes to Persia looking for rugs - was also interesting. Even after the last page was turned, I was still left with the quandary of how can two religions be so similar in some ways and so diametrically different in others.
The book was an easy read even at 370+ pages and very character driven as it seems most "chick lit" is. I would definitely recommend it as an "escape" novel and/or a good weekend read.
To see more reviews of what everyone's reading for this challenge, go here.