How many books I have seen that tell the story of a mother (or a father) in an intercultural or interreligious marriage that is left without the children after a breakup of the marriage? I do not know.
This book is one of those stories about love and children and a breakup. It is set in Botswana and in Egypt, so I decided to take this book with me and read it.
The story starts in 1972 in Germany when Elisabeth (23 years young) finishes her studies to be a dentist. Shortly after starting her work she gets the longing to settle in a convent. She travels to Austria to talk about her longings with the head of the Ordo Sanctae Ursulae (O.S.U.). She is accepted and starts her training in an Austrian convent. In April 1977 she is sent to Botswana where she starts work in a hospital, while she continues living in a local congregation of nuns. It proves to be a difficult life for her, who finds it hard to adjust to the regime of the order.
At the hospital she gets to know the Egyptian medical doctor Hussein, who is a muslim. The two fall in love. They set up a household together (Elisabeth had already left the living quarters of the other nuns), get married, get two children. This young family has a multicultural background and a multireligious background. Elisabeth is convinced that love will conquer everything. She still has good contact with the OSU community of which she had been part. She makes sure her children are being baptized. The family is living the good life.
Then the family takes the decision to move to Egypt, the home country of Hussein. Here the family is getting strong links with Husseins relatives. Living in Cairo is hard for Elisabeth. In many different ways they try to make a living, a good living, trying to settle parttime in the countryside to be a bit self-sufficient farmers. The closeness of Husseins relatives is very hard for Elisabeth to cope with. Slowly but surely the family desintegrates, causing hardship for all the members of small family. They sttart living apart, not by design, but it happens when Elisabeth decided to take time to live in Germany. In this way the gap between the two widens.
In the end the question is: who is left with what? Who is left with the broken remains of a once happy family?
Elisabeth Stahlschmidt – Auch ohne meine Kinder – 1996