Cet article sera en anglais – version française à venir prochainement
Today’s review is a bit different. It is about a blog, and not a book. It is about the real life experience of Lynn, an American girl, who got married to a Syrian man, and moved with him to Saudi. The story of her life is fascinating as well as very harsh. A lesson for all.
I came across Lynn’s blog via another one. Feminine Materz is a feminist blog whose author is based in Africa. I love it and would love for you to follow it as well, I am learning a lot about what it means to be a woman and a feminist in this continent (this is from a privileged white French girl who grew up in a middle class family).
There was an article listing interesting links, and I dutifully clicked on each of them. Some were more interesting than others to me, but Lynn’s blog stood up. It is called « Lynz Real Cooking », and that’s why it first caught my interest: I am trying to get better in the kitchen. (I’ve mastered pasta, now I can move forward!)
But then I digged around a little and found that Lynn had lived in Saudi for many years. And there was a tab called « Escape – True Life Story ». Having read Princess a few month earlier, on the restrictions women in Saudi have to live with, I was very eager to discover Lynn’s story.
Story in short: Lynn met her handsome future husband when she was a student in the US. Very early in the relationship, there were signs of manipulation but she chose to ignore them as she was deeply in love.
When her husband found a new job in Saudi, the whole family (three kids and one on the way) moved there. Living conditions were horrible but slowly improved as Lynn’s husband was able to secure better positions. But at home it was hell: whatever Lynn did was wrong. The family grew and Lynn had 9 children.
When her eldest son graduated from university in the US, they decided to all go there to attend the ceremony. Lynn then made the decision to stay back and separated from her abusive husband.
Review: Lynn’s story is told in simple yet efficient words. I suspect the telling of her own story was a therapeutic step for her to heal from the relationship.
She never tells the name of her husband. He is known throughout the story as « He », written often in bold and italic.
HE is a lovely young man studying in the US when he meets Lynn, a middle class American girl, loud, chewing gum and joking around. They fall in love immediately.
Very early in the relationship, there are clues here and there that something isn’t right, but Lynn, young and enthusiastic, chose to ignore them. The first one is him taking control on her money. The second, their secret wedding and her secret conversion to Islam to be able to marry her lover. Then the abuse gets more and more regular. Lynn learns how to react to protect herself and the kids and limit the damages.
The real switch is when her husband rediscovers his faith, and vows to live a humble life: it means that the family will live with the bare minimum, or even less, without complaining, because ‘it is worse for others’ and they are privileged to have what they have. They should be thankful for what they have.
They live in a small house with little furniture, given away by friends leaving the country or Lynn’s parents when they redecorate their own home.
It becomes worse when they move to Saudi, a country where women depend 100% on their « guardian » (husband, father or son) for every aspect of their life.
Lynn is humble and full of courage. I was horrified to learn that she moved into an apartment with no furniture whatsoever and no AC with three children and eight months pregnant. And her husband telling her that she should make do! And she diligently obliged! Horrified.
The treatment she received at the hospital when she went to check on her pregnancy and after that, to deliver her baby, were terrible as well.
Day after day, she continues to oblige her husband, and be a good housewife. Visits to her sister, living in the same country, are a ray of sun in the life of the family.
Eventually they settle down in a nice compound, with electricity (!!!!) and thus air conditioning. Lynn is able to make a home of their house and finds friends she likes among the expat crowd that lives there.
But her relationship with her husband deteriorates and she soon turns into a slave. She isn’t allowed to eat with the family. Only good to cook, do the housework, and in silence.
As the kids grow up, reaching their teens, they start to understand that something is wrong and defend their mother. In return, « He » asks Lynn to stop turning HIS kids against him… things like a bicycle for the eldest son takes months to negotiate.. before that he was running alongside his friends who all had a cycle.
The school system in Saudi is also terrible. The kids are beaten and insulted, there is very little supervision during recess, and injuries aren’t taken seriously by the school team. Lynn finds the courage to confront her husband when it comes to her children, which he obviously doesn’t like, but he knows that she’s a lioness when it comes to the kids.
When Osama, the eldest boy, leaves to go to university to the US, Lynn is accused once again of separating on purpose the kids from their father.
The ultimate humiliation happens when Lynn is asked to sign a document stating that she doesn’t oppose her husband to take another bride… and she accepts.
The paranoia and control of Lynn’s husband is growing and becoming more and more devastating. In retrospect, Lynn is able to pinpoints clues that she didn’t notice or chose to ignore at the beginning of her relationship.
She finally sets free from this toxic relationship when Osama graduates in the US, and the whole family goes to attend the graduation ceremony. They all secretly pack to never come back, but Lynn makes the final decision when, even in the US, on American soil, at her parents’ place, HE continues to manipulate and impose his will on her – he refuses that she goes to the toilets, purely and simply!
I must say that this is a very moving story and I couldn’t imagine that it happened for real. But Lynn and her kids are real. They suffered the mental illness of their husband and father for years before breaking free.
Lynn had to start again from the beginning. She had to find a job when she had never worked, use a credit card when she never owned one, and rely on herself when she used to rely on her husband for everything that was outside of the house.
Today she’s a grand mother, and a proud one. Her life story is an inspiration, and I hope you will read it and share it as well.
Lynn’s blog, where you can find her story, her recipes, and photos of Saudi, Syria and the US: https://lynzrealcooking.com/