Readers expecting Borderline Love in Beirut to be a traditional love story, will be disappointed. Lebanese author Majd Zaher does not cater to the happy ending crowd. He does, however, present raw, lyrical prose and profound conclusions about love and society. He speaks to those who have loved, lost, and struggled to find their way in a world that refuses to accept them. In place of a happy ending, Zaher puts forth lessons. Instead of predicable narrative points, Zaher takes his readers on a roller coaster of emotion. Beautifully composed and gut-wrenchingly sad, Borderline Love in Beirut does not attempt to mask its message: it speaks equally to anyone who has ever felt the full, unrelenting weight of love.
On the surface, Borderline Love in Beirut, is a beautifully written, but emotionally turbulent, narrative about both love and loss, passion and indifference, isolation and acceptance. Zaher infuses the story with deeply personal experiences and feelings, to create a story that speaks to anyone who has ever felt the consequences of falling in love. The book focuses on two main characters, two young individuals living in contemporary Lebanon. Joy, hailing from a small, rather conservative village, encounters Adam at university in Beirut, and their lives become inextricably intertwined. Their passionate encounter and recklessness start to impede on their happiness, ultimately leading the reader through a labyrinth of emotions.
At the core of Borderline are two struggling individuals, seeking an anchor in a chaotic sea of choices. To access these emotions or experiences, Zaher tackles their actions in relation to each other. Joy and Adam become symbolic of push and pull, equal but opposite forces reacting against each other. Neither can survive without the other, but both will eventually realize they can never be truly as close as they desire.
Today, so many young people struggle with their mental health, from anxiety and depression, to far more severe conditions. The levels of stress and social pressure are astronomical in society today, and proper support networks or communication channels are more important than ever. Zaher understands all too well the impact that our upbringing and our society can have on our personal identity and mental well-being. His own experience with bullying was a catalyst for the story, and a primary reason the book exists. He wanted to reach out to others who were feeling bullied or lacking support in their lives.
To address these issues, Zaher touches on poignant lessons about society and the impact of isolation. As the story, progresses, it is revealed that both characters lack support from their communities and understanding from loved ones. The consequences of their experiences begin to take a major toll on their mental health and relationships, leading to heartbreaking ends. Through the lens of Joy and Adam’s relationship, Zaher forms a very relevant commentary about taboos that persevere, especially in the Arab world, and the mental health concerns that can arise when a community withdraws its support.
Borderline in Beirut is a book about the entangled paths of the two characters lead to the untimely downfall of both. Therefore, it is a love story, in the truest sense. It does not shy away from difficult topics, nor does it pretend to be something it is not. While Borderline offers no prescription for healing, it does shed light on a narrative that many can relate to. Zaher imparts lessons that, while difficult to swallow, are all-too practical and relatable for scores of people, of all ages and situations.
Borderline Love in Beirut will be launched May 2021.