I was approached by a client with diagnosed memory issues to ghostwrite her memoir. What could possibly go wrong? As it turned out, we had enormous fun and you can now read this joyful celebration of Caroline Karkoutli’s life and loves in Letters from Lebanon.
At first I thought, “This isn’t going to be easy!” but inspiration struck. Caroline had many life-long friends from her days in Lebanon – why not crowd-source the book by delving into the memories and anecdotes of her wonderful friends and family? And it worked! Together they presented me with enough stories about Caroline’s past to allow me to write Letters from Lebanon; which I matched by painstakingly researching the history of Lebanon and Syria in the 1970s and 80s – just to ensure we got the timeline right. If this all sounds very solemn – it wasn’t!
It is always a privilege for me to interview clients, and to hear their stories. Often they find it emotional, and sometimes also cathartic, to look back on events that shaped their lives. Creating Letters from Lebanon was all this and more. I spoke to some incredible women. And I spent just as much time laughing as feeling emotional. Sometimes Caroline seemed determined to have fun, asking, “Now, what can we make up about this?” with a sense of glee. As far as we could, however, we stuck to what we know about what happened.
The story behind Letters from Lebanon is almost commonplace these days. Gap years are common, with young people heading off on 15-hour flights around the globe. Their sense of adventure and desire to do good in the world isn’t new; Caroline Karkoutli and her friends felt the same. There were many differences. Travelling to Lebanon (not many attempt it these days) was more complicated in those days; travelling home might be impossible, as their beloved adopted home was torn by civil war. Communication with home in those days wasn’t just a WhatsApp or Facebook message; people sat down to write letters by hand, with an excursion to the Post Office to buy a stamp presenting dangers, as the gun battles raged.
From the start, Caroline’s story reveals her sense of excitement at travelling to a new country; her wonder at all the new things she experienced and the danger she and her little family faced when bombs started dropping all around her. For many of us, the Middle East has always seemed to be a place of division and fighting. Through Letters from Lebanon we can discover the wonders of the region and the deep, emotional reasons that a young woman might want to stay.
Letters from Lebanon is available from Amazon in paperback (e-book coming soon) at £7.95 and you can order it here:
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