Cannell Agency
Published by
Riverhead (2017-01-17)
Current material
1st Pass Pages
Original language
Fiction & Related items


by Robbins, Emily

Debut novel about the search for an "astonishing text".

Set in an unnamed foreign country, A WORD FOR LOVE is a debut novel about a young American woman who arrives in search of an “astonishing text”—said to have the power to make all its readers weep.

Instead, she finds herself caught in the lives of her host family and a Romeo & Juliet-like romance that ultimately teaches her about love, loyalty, and herself—and changes her reading of everything.

Emily Robbins lived in Syria from 2005-2008, first as a foreign exchange student, then as a Fulbright Scholar and an intern with UNRWA, the United Nations branch for Palestinian refugees. Since then, she’s worked in Lebanon and Morocco, and taught high school with Teach for America. In 2012, she received her MFA from Washington University in St. Louis, studying with novelist Kathryn Davis.

Available rights (47)

Language Territory Type Vendor Status
Albanian World All

Cannell Agency
Cynthia Cannell

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Arabic World All

Cannell Agency
Cynthia Cannell

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Belarusian World All

Cannell Agency
Cynthia Cannell

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Bosnian World All

Cannell Agency
Cynthia Cannell

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Brazilian Portuguese World All

Cannell Agency
Cynthia Cannell

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Robbins’ melodic novel is a story of war, family, language, but above all, a paean to unabashed, unbridled love. Told in quiet but elegant prose, each thump of this melodic novel’s heart (and what an enormous, rousing heart it is) attests to the timeless and life-giving power of love.

Quote: Khaled Hosseini, author

Grappling With the Language of Love - MODERN LOVE Column by Emily Robbins

Quote: New York Times

Emily Robbins reflects eloquently on Syria and how she worked to portray it authentically in the novel.

Quote: Signature

Robbins' writing is straightforward, light and simple, but readily gets at the moving complexities of love.

Review: The Ashland Daily Tidings

lovely and powerful essay by Emily Robbins in today's LitHub

Quote: Cannell

With lyrical precision and sharp psychology, A Word for Love asks us to consider the ways one household might become a world, one love might become a universe.

Quote: Rebecca Makkai, author

modest and lovely... Robbins does a wonderful job of writing about the uniqueness of Arabic in a relatable way...

Review: Book Page

Emily Robbins weaves a luminous, heartbreaking narrative...A lyrical, bittersweet story that raises more questions than it answers, Robbins's debut explores the gaps in translation (both linguistic and cultural), the problems of divided loyalties, and many words for love.

Review: Shelf Awareness

[T]his debut serves as a meditation on the many meanings and forms of love, and how words and texts can be used both to love and to harm.

Review: Library Journal

Bea is a winning choice as a narrator, lending the story vulnerability and authenticity, especially because she is such an empathetic, and often helpless, spectator. With an impressive economy of words, Robbins, formerly a Fulbright Fellow in Syria, tells a story that proves that themes of love, loss, and freedom truly can transcend borders and time.

Review: Booklist, starred review

Italy: Planeta ; Poland: Proszynski Media ; Turkey: Altın Kitaplar

Quote: Cannell

A Word for Love artfully tells a human story while keeping a mounting conflagration (in Syria and elsewhere) constantly in its frame. Subtle, lapidary, powerful, the novel beautifully evokes the quiet of rooms and the turbulence outside, showing how an innocent evolves into a witness, and how much it costs her, and how much more it costs those she comes to love.

Quote: Zachary Lazar, author

The shiny gold cover and title caught my eye, but I stayed for the premise. A college student travels to the Middle East to study a famed text of doomed love. Her fascination with language may be what drew her to the country, but it’s the political turmoil and the people she meets that really serves to educate her...the author shows promise.

Review: Book Riot

Robbins weaves a story complete with exquisite sentences, including descriptions of the Syrian landscape…Bea’s fascination with language and the unique characteristics of Arabic add delightful layers to the text. This is a rich, understated novel that offers an absorbing story full of longing, political intrigue, and the beauty found outside the familiar.

Review: Publishers Weekly

Transforms the most impossibly tangled and de-humanizing aspects of the world we live in now into prose so clear and clean you could drink it.

Quote: Kathryn Davis, author

[A WORD FOR LOVE is an] important book, if only because it is likely to be read by a western audience who perhaps need to be reminded that Syria exists as more than a news headline.

Review: The National

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