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The Polar Bear and the Palm Tree
The Polar Bear and the Palm Tree
The Polar Bear and the Palm Tree
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The Polar Bear and the Palm Tree

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"Thoroughly enjoyed this book. I didn't want the story to end!" - 5-star Goodreads review
"An exceptional story filled with lovely characters, vivid scenes and exciting locations." - 5-star reader's review
"Grab this book, enjoy reading it, and look forward to the author's next offering!" - 5-star Goodreads review

When Ingrid lands in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on a hot summer night in the early 1990's, she has no idea her life will take an unexpected turn. From the palace of HRH Princess Jowhara, where she lives and works, she discovers an exotic country, the gorgeous yet unforgiving desert of the Rub al Khali and has an encounter with the feared religious police. But she also meets wonderful, generous and fascinating women and soon embarks on a new adventure to Norway and the Arctic with her new friend, Mikio, an older Japanese professor and amateur photographer. Follow them as they discover each other on their trip to Norway where their friendship beyond borders and age will grow.

The Polar Bear and the Palm Tree is a beautiful story of an unlikely friendship that takes you from the Saudi Desert to the Arctic via Las Vegas. If you enjoy reading about exotic places and exciting adventures, you should definitely check this out!

If you liked A Gentleman in Moscow, you'll like this!

Release dateJun 20, 2018
The Polar Bear and the Palm Tree
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    The Polar Bear and the Palm Tree - Evelyne Fallows

    the Polar Bear and

    the palm tree

    Evelyne Fallows

    The Polar bear and the Palm Tree Copyright © 2017 by Evelyne Fallows. All Rights Reserved.

    No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review. 

    This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. 

    5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book! Couldn’t put it down!

    Byshayshayon January 5, 2018

    Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase

    I finished this fantastic Book in less than two days. Life as an Expat Woman in Riyadh.

    It’s a book I can highly recommend 👍🏽 👍🏽

    5.0 out of 5 stars From the deserts of Saudi to the icebergs of Norway

    ByLisa Hopeon December 6, 2017

    Format: Kindle Edition

    In the first few pages, I was drawn into the lives of two unique characters and I immediately wanted to know more about them. The Polar Bear and the Palm Tree take you to unexpected places -- Saudi Arabia and Norway -- which at first glance have nothing in common, but the connections that are woven into the story are delightful and surprising. As someone who lived in Saudi Arabia, I think the story gives a fantastic glimpse into the culture of the country, royal family, and the life of expats living and working there. Settle yourself in with a cup of tea and enjoy the quirks of Ingrid, the mysteries of Mikio, and a story of friendship, exploration, and adventure. Evelyne has written a wonderful debut novel and I hope there's more to come!

    4.0 out of 5 stars Don't overlook this new author!

    ByMYW Marionon April 7, 2018

    Format: Kindle Edition

    This book is a really good read especially given it is the author's first book! Bravo Ms. Fallows! The story has interesting characters from very different backgrounds coming together making their connection compellingly unusual and moves the reader to unexpected places and emotions. Ms. Fallows descriptions of Saudi Arabia transported me back to my years living there with pin point accuracy. I hope Ms. Fallows will choose to share more stories with us.

    What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

    -antoine de Saint - Exupery

    This novel is dedicated to my husband Tom, for believing in me, for his endless support and patience, and everything else.

    Ia tibia lioubliou!

    Chapter 1

    Las Vegas, 2015


    he audience erupted with applause in the packed conference room. The last speaker had just concluded the opening day of the Vulnerable and Endangered Species Conference that would last a total of three days. For the first time in its history the conference was taking place in an American city, Las Vegas to be exact. This had initially surprised and dismayed many of experts and participants slated to attend - many were afraid the city would offer too many distractions. Las Vegas wasn’t called Sin City for nothing now, was it? But against all odds, the convention center was fully packed and there was not an empty seat in the house. People had come from all corners of the world, experts and keen amateurs alike, all packed in the brightly lit and over air-conditioned conference room.

    Mikio H. stood at the back of the room by the side door where he was provided with a clear view of the podium and the main speaker. A discreet and reserved man in his seventies, he was fascinated by polar bears. Mikio had tried to attend most, if not all, summits and conferences on the topic across the globe over the past ten years. For this particular conference he had booked his flight and hotel a little over a year in advance, well ahead of time. A wealthy Japanese photographer, philanthropist, and retired professor from Tokyo University, he considered himself to be a man of many passions. The exact origins of his fortune remained a mystery to most.

    The attendees had begun to rise up out of their seats, still clapping or gathering their jackets and purses. While this partially blocked Mikio’s view, he could still see the speaker. He noticed how tall and slender she was, her heels and long dark curly hair amplifying her height even further. Her posture was perfect. She towered over the men standing next to her while the audience continued clapping. Mikio guessed she was in her late thirties.

    Over the years Mikio had heard about this speaker on the conference circuit, and had even attended one of her conferences in Europe back in 2013. He had read almost all her articles and even one of her very rare interviews, but beyond that he knew very little about her. Despite her widespread success she remained a very private person. Tonight, however, Mikio had decided to approach the woman and introduce himself. He had some questions about her upcoming trip to the Arctic, which she had just mentioned in her closing speech. He wanted to go back to the Arctic for many reasons, and he was eager to know more about the expedition she had planned.

    Ingrid al-J. was striking rather than classically beautiful. Her features were sharp yet her face expressed kindness. Her smile was gorgeous despite her large-set teeth. She wore only black and white but her lipstick was bright ruby red. Everything about her seemed to be in contrast.

    Yin and yang, thought Mikio. Complementary forces interacting to promote greatness.

    Mikio regarded her more attentively, taking note of her pale skin, her beautiful almond shaped eyes, her slender frame. He remembered reading that Ingrid was Lebanese on her father’s side, German on her mother’s. What an unusual combination, he had mused, intrigued.

    Ingrid al-J., professional athlete turned Arctic expert was nicknamed AA by her friends. Ingrid loved wine so naturally it seemed fitting, but Ingrid did not find it funny at all. Her uncle Albert had been an alcoholic until he’d fallen in the pool after a drunken night and had died, and the addiction ran on both sides of the family. She did not hesitate to let her friends know that she found the name uncouth.

    The day’s conference had officially come to an end and people were exiting out towards the main doors. Mikio pushed forward the opposite way and approached the podium. Ingrid stood gathering her notes while two technicians busied themselves with packing up the material for the following day.

    Ms. al-J.? he asked softly.

    She didn’t seem to hear him. He quickly looked around; the room was still half packed, people were chatting and laughing, talking on the phone or making plans for the evening. At least the clapping was over with, Mikio thought, surprised by the audience’s enthusiasm at the end of such a fully-packed day.

    Ms. al-J.? he repeated a bit louder, after having cleared his throat as discreetly as possible.

    Yes? Who’s asking? Ingrid replied.

    She wasn’t smiling, but she was curious. Her eyes were bright but she looked tired, tense even. Mikio wondered if she was jetlagged on top of a long and exhausting day. He certainly was! Up close he noticed a small scar on her left cheek and tiny freckles on her nose and forehead. They added to her charm.

    Mikio H. from Japan, retired professor from Tokyo University and lover of polar bears. It’s an honor to meet you. I really enjoyed your talk today, he said with a deep bow. Actually, I attended your TED talk two years ago in Venice.

    She nodded, one eyebrow raised. Later that night Mikio would try to do the same in front of his bathroom mirror only to conclude that he looked ridiculous. Ingrid thought Mikio’s name sounded familiar but she couldn’t remember where she had heard it. She didn’t say a word but silently nodded, cueing to him that she was waiting for him to continue. So, he did, more confidently this time.

    "Well, I am … I am fascinated by the Ursus maritimus and you mentioned your upcoming trip so I…"

    He suddenly froze mid-sentence, staring at her neck. Ingrid was wearing a tight white blouse with deep décolletage. While it may have seemed that Mikio was taking note of Ingrid’s attractive and ample bosom, he was, in all honesty, instead transfixed by the unusual necklace she wore around her neck. This was not entirely apparent and both Ingrid’s eyebrows shot up with a mix of amusement and bewilderment at this man’s unabashed staring. Finally, Mikio mumbled something that she didn’t catch.

    Pardon? she asked, breaking into a slight smile for the first time.

    "I’m so sorry, but I just noticed your necklace. Speaking of the Ursus maritimus, you’re wearing a polar bear pendant next to a palm tree, am I right?" he inquired quietly, slightly embarrassed. He felt rather silly to be asking about necklaces and pendants in such a professional setting.

    The bear was made of silver, the palm tree of gold. They created a striking combination of contrasts. Both pendants were tiny but extremely well-detailed - the bear had a long skull and nose with small ears and a tail. Its large paws were very apparent. A polar bear for sure, Mikio concluded. The palm tree had a smooth trunk and a beautiful crown. Probably a date palm tree, but Mikio wasn’t positive. He knew more about polar bears than palm trees, you see.

    Indeed. You’re quite observant, Mr. H. from Japan, she said in that half-joking, half-sarcastic tone for which she was known. A heavy silence hung in the air, and Ingrid was too tired to continue humoring this awkward Japanese man. She decided to focus on what she was doing and gather the rest of her documents into her briefcase. Another eccentric, Ingrid thought as she gave a mental shrug. She was about to dismiss him when she heard him whisper, "Fuori dell’uso!"

    How do you know that expression? Ingrid replied, unable to hide her surprise.

    She had only heard one person use it: an old university professor she had met in Bocconi, Italy. It was a very old-fashioned way of saying Unusual, out of the ordinary. She was also surprised to hear Mikio speaking Italian; rarely did she meet Japanese people who spoke more than a spattering of English. Her curiosity piqued, Ingrid looked at Mikio closer.

    He appeared to be in his early seventies, with a handsome face and silver hair that was slightly messy. Always detail-oriented, she silently took in everything: his beautiful manicured hands wore no ring. Ingrid loved men with beautiful hands. He wore a dark grey suit and tie, a white fitted shirt, silver cufflinks, and shiny black shoes. Everything in his outfit and demeanor said wealth without ostentation. She approved. Her father, a self- made millionaire of humble origin always told her, Even if you have the money, don’t flaunt it.

    Yes, I do. I mean, I know that expression, Mikio replied. A sad look in his eyes betrayed his smile, and Ingrid wondered where this melancholy came from. Mikio was proving difficult to read, something Ingrid felt she normally had a knack for. Frustrated, she bristled as she readied herself to leave.

    Well, it was nice meeting you but if you’ll excuse me, Mr. H., I’ve had a long day and - Ingrid started saying.

    Ms. al-J., may I invite you for a drink? he interrupted her. I’ve been so impatient to meet you and I have many questions for you. I would love to hear more about your upcoming trip to the Arctic.

    He was almost pleading now and felt flustered again, but he was taken aback by his bold move. He had never ever invited a stranger out before! He never would have dreamed it normally, but for some strange reason he felt drawn to Ingrid and couldn’t explain why. He had spoken without even thinking, which was very unusual for this man of restraint.

    Fuori del uso! he whispered under his breath again as Ingrid hesitated to respond.

    Upon hearing this old Italian expression for the second time a flow of emotions and memories came rushing back, and Ingrid looked at Mikio with increased interest. What were the chances of meeting someone in Las Vegas who knew that old fashioned Italian expression? And an older professor from Japan of all places? Still, she wasn’t convinced.

    It’s very kind of you but no thank you, she replied while putting on her jacket. Ingrid had learned over the years that she didn’t need to explain nor justify her refusal.

    In precise order, her first two rules of conference conduct were (and the list was quite long, she was half German after all):

    1. Never engage with a member of the audience outside of the conference room.

    2. Be professional, respectable, and beyond reproach at all times and without exceptions.

    I know a quiet place for a chat and a glass of wine, if you’d like, Mikio quickly blurted out, realizing she was not going to change her mind. He had read in one interview that Ingrid loved red wine, especially those from Piedmont Italy, like Barolo.

    Ingrid looked at Mikio, at her watch, and back at Mikio. Finally, with that bright mischievous smile, she nodded. It had been a long day after all, she was tired and wanted to unwind. She hadn’t had a good glass of wine in at least three days. Plus, this older Japanese man seemed harmless enough.

    One exception won’t kill me, she decided, grabbing her briefcase and heading for the door. To hell with her rules! She was fifty percent Lebanese after all.

    On their way out, Ingrid turned to Mikio and asked, with a slight smirk on her face, So where is this great place that you recommend for wine?

    The bar at the Bellagio, where I am staying. He couldn’t help but notice her surprise.

    The Bellagio, quiet? Really? she replied teasingly.

    At this time of day, yes. The bar there is one of my favorite spots to taste great wines and people watch in peace. My favorites are from Bordeaux. Wines … not people, he added with a small bow of the head and a discreet chuckle, his shoulders moving but the laughter silent.

    Ingrid giggled. She was not particularly fond of the French either, especially after what had transpired with Jean-Claude in London last May. She waved away that unhappy memory and with a smile as engaging as she could manage, replied, Sure, Mr. Mikio from Japan, let’s go.


    They had no problem finding a taxi, and the drive to the Bellagio took only ten minutes as traffic was light at that time of day. Ingrid was fascinated by the colorful flashing lights, the extravagant hotels and casinos jutting out into the middle of the desert, the arid climate, and the diverse crowd. She had been surprised by the locale of this year’s convention, normally preferring Europe or Asia, but she had to admit that Las Vegas was an interesting city. It grew on you after a while. The other advantage was that she didn’t know anyone in Las Vegas, so she could easily go around incognito and be free to do as she pleased.

    Both Mikio and Ingrid were silent on the drive

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