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Set in an unnamed North African country, this is the story of a girl from a protective religious family who is striving to establish her right to a more free lifestyle. The 'forbidden ground' of the title has two referents: the drunkard-infested wilderness surrounding the shrine to which her misguided grandmother sends her when her baby brother falls ill, and the emotional territory into which she strays when she meets a charming young man. Sami is one of the youths who playfully pursue the members of a more fashionable set of girls which Hannah longs to join, yet he claims to be in love with her because of her uniqueness. The book revolves around Hannah's struggles to assess Sami's sincerity, as insights into the vulnerability of her own family bestow a painful but salutary wisdom upon her. This is a romantic, but realistic and unsentimental story; its cultural and geographic settings are vividly evoked, but the universality of the emotional dilemmas it describes gives the story a very wide relevance and appeal.