– Nominee for Best Fiction (2015)
Mahmoud’s passion for his wife Fereiba, a schoolteacher, is greater than any love she’s ever known. But their happy, middle-class world—a life of education, work, and comfort—implodes when their country is engulfed in war, and the Taliban rises to power.
Mahmoud, a civil engineer, becomes a target of the new fundamentalist regime and is murdered. Forced to flee Kabul with her three children, Fereiba has one hope to survive: she must find a way to cross Europe and reach her sister’s family in England. With forged papers and help from kind strangers they meet along the way, Fereiba make a dangerous crossing into Iran under cover of darkness. Exhausted and brokenhearted but undefeated, Fereiba manages to smuggle them as far as Greece. But in a busy market square, their fate takes a frightening turn when her teenage son, Saleem, becomes separated from the rest of the family.
Faced with an impossible choice, Fereiba pushes on with her daughter and baby, while Saleem falls into the shadowy underground network of undocumented Afghans who haunt the streets of Europe’s capitals. Across the continent Fereiba and Saleem struggle to reunite, and ultimately find a place where they can begin to reconstruct their lives.
I read this as it was chosen for the March-May read for my local library book club, As the Page Turns. With the exception of one book so far, it would not have been my choice. Sometimes that works well, introducing me to a new author that I’ll enjoy reading.
Fereiba must flee Afghanistan with her two children and a newborn after her husband, a civil engineer, is killed by the Taliban. Life has become untenable and she is hoping to seek asylum in England with a relative. There appears to be little relief or safety, however, on the journey fraught with peril through Turkey, Greece, and Italy.
Most of the storyline is told through the eyes of Fereiba, although towards the latter half of the novel, Saleem, her oldest child, becomes the POV. He is in his teens, but short of street experiences which he will be forced to confront the hard way.
It is a graphically realistic narrative, creating the fear, poverty, and hunger, they face on their journey. It’s dangerous and Fereiba is also faced with the failing health of her newborn son as well as the loss of much of the funds they’d allocated for the crossing.
It’s a slow build-up, facing insurmountable odds and solving one problem, only to be faced with the next. Then, suddenly…
I thought it was my cell phone Kindle app and looked forward for the conclusion. In looking for it, however, and reading other reviews we all apparently discovered the same. There is no resolution, no conclusion. The writing style is compelling, if somewhat deliberate and drawn out, but the ending left me high and dry. I assume that was intentional, leaving the reader to understand the struggle faced by refugees. And it’s true, we can’t see a happy ending there.
I received a copy of this book from my local library that in no way influenced this review. These are my honest thoughts.
Rosepoint Rating: Three point Five Stars
Genre: Women’s Historical Fiction, Women’s Literary Fiction, Coming of Age Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow (Reprint edition)
Print Length: 389 pages
Publication Date: July 21, 2015
Source: Local Library
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The Author: Nadia Hashimi is a pediatrician turned novelist who draws on her Afghan culture to craft internationally bestselling books for adults as well as young readers. Her novels span generations and continents, taking on themes like forced migration, conflict, poverty, misogyny, colonialism, and addiction. She enjoys conversations with readers of all ages in libraries, book festivals, classrooms, and living rooms. With translations in seventeen languages, she’s connected with readers around the world.
Nadia was born and raised in New York and New Jersey. Both her parents were born in Afghanistan and left in the early 1970s, before the Soviet invasion. Her mother, granddaughter of a notable Afghan poet, traveled to Europe to obtain a Master’s degree in civil engineering and her father came to the United States, where he worked hard to fulfill his American dream and build a new, brighter life for his immediate and extended family. Nadia was fortunate to be surrounded by a large family of aunts, uncles and cousins, keeping the Afghan culture an integral part of their daily lives.
Nadia graduated from Brandeis University with degrees in Middle Eastern Studies and Biology. She studied medicine in Brooklyn, New York, and then completed her pediatric residency training at NYU and Bellevue hospitals before moving to Maryland with her husband. On days off from a busy emergency room and after years of avid reading, she began crafting stories that drew on her heritage and the complex experiences of Afghans.
In 2003, she made her first trip to Afghanistan with her parents who had not returned to their homeland since leaving in the 1970s. She continues to serve on boards of organizations committed to educating and nurturing Afghanistan’s most vulnerable children and empowering the female leaders of tomorrow. She is a member of the US-Afghan Women’s Council and an advisor to Kallion, an organization that seeks to elevate leadership through humanities. Locally, she serves as a Montgomery County health care commissioner and organizing committee member of the Gaithersburg Book Festival.
She and her husband are the beaming parents of four curious, rock star children, an African Grey parrot named Nickel who reminds the kids to brush their teeth, and Justice, the hungriest Rhodesian Ridgeback you’ve ever met.
Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter or via her website (www.nadiahashimi.com) to learn more or request a virtual book club visit. She’s quite social.
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