The story starts in Ireland where Ruth who has fallen in love with Euan a minister of the church with a infant daughter. The background of Ruth's life is prosaic. Born on a dairy farm to average hard working parents Ruth has always yearned for the exotic and far flung places which were always places in a book. Now she has the chance to see the wider world out there when her husband decides to head a missionary group based in Bahrain.
Fast forward to Bahrain - a strange mix of the ancient and modern. Ancient civilization, ancient rules and trying to steer a moderate path in the face of its strong Islamic neighbours. Ruth believes their purpose in Bahrain is to look after the Catholic flock there - a mix of Indian, Bangladeshi, Filipino and the Western expatriates who are all members of the church but she is in for a rude awakening when Euan informs her that his actual purpose is to infiltrate Saudi Arabia (with its zero tolerance policy on conversion) with taking tracts of the bible hidden in pens so that those who are interested in the faith would have an opportunity of reading something about it.
Added to the mix of this story are a couple of characters - Noor who is of English and Bahraini parentage - not really fitting into either world and at odds with her father, Farid her cousin who falls in love with Ruth - and Ruth with him who is initially told by Noor's father to help Ruth with her sightseeing. (I thought this was rather unlikely - traditional families encouraging a young man to take a Western woman out for a drive - a bit unlikely scenario for me) but this is the story here.
I liked the descriptive manner which the author used to describe Bahrain, as well as Ireland - very evocative of both countries. The story in itself was a good one - whether East and West can ever meet is something that would be questionable from this book but it gets one thinking anyway - but the characters were weak. How Ruth lost her faith so very easily and whether Euan could give up all responsibility to his wife and baby daughter without any thought for their safety was something I could not fathom.
On the other hand characters like Noor's father reverting back to the traditional Muslim male as he gets older and the depiction of housemaids - was so very true to form. But then again these are just minor characters of the story whereas Ruth and Euan were the main ones and their behaviour was questionable. I expected more from this book so maybe that is why I felt a bit dejected by the end.