A while ago I finished a most interesting book, The Forty Rules of Love, by Elif Shafak. I must say it was a brave book by a brave writer because it tackles the relationship of Shams and Rumi while at the same time examining whether a man and woman in modern times can have a similar spiritual intimacy.
The story flip-flops between two stories. The first is the thirteenth century story of Shams' calling to act as a spiritual catalyst in Rumi's life, their eventual meeting and how it turned Rumi's life upside down, to Shams' death and Rumi's grief. The second story involves a modern housewife and mother whose marriage has grown stale, her children nearly grown and needing her less and less, and her increasing involvement with an author of the first tale, The Forty Rules of Love.
I wish I could say that I found the story of Shams and Rumi as portrayed here to be believable, but sometimes I felt like it had too much 21st century sensibilities creeping into the story. The second story was somewhat more believable, although I'm not sure the ending really rang true. It's a little hard to understand how a timid housewife would suddenly cast herself into a whole new life so suddenly like that. Still, the stories were fascinating and stuck with me for quite a while.
I think that the whole genre of spiritual fiction needs to grow as it explores eternal themes in a fictional setting. The author, Ms. Shafak, should be commended for taking the leap and daring to plumb the depths of spiritual exploration.