Wow. I waited way too long to read this book. I haven’t been this emotionally impacted by a book in a long while, and I can’t even think about this one without tearing up all over again.
This multi-generational drama follows two women living in Afghanistan from the 1950s up through the early 2000s. Mariam is a harami, born outside of wedlock and forever doomed by this fate. Married off at fifteen, she struggles to bear children and fears the daily storm of her husband.
Laila, a child of Kabul, is a teen when revolution hits the city hard, forever changing her own fate as a brilliant, college-bound young Muslim woman into something far more darkly shadowed. Laila and Mariam end up tied to the same cruel man, Rasheed, as the country they love crumbles around them.
Reading this book can be overwhelming and heavy at times, and I had to take quite a few breaks while listening in order to breathe and separate myself a bit. It’s really, really hard to read some of the intimate abuse as well as the harshness of the regime governing them in Afghanistan. I never knew the half of it, what women in this country faced for years and years and I’m sure even now, and there was almost a shock of disbelief for me with each new chapter.
For example, when the Taliban takes over, Laila talks about the new rules being played out on loudspeakers and written on flyers strewn all over Kabul. Things like women cannot leave the house unless accompanied by a man, no films or television, etc – and as I’m listening to that, it suddenly hits me that while what I’m reading is technically fiction, this is rooted in truth. This detail really happened. And I just…it didn’t even hit me the reality of these rules, this situation until I was reading about how affected these women on an everyday level. That’s why I think books like this are so important; I personally didn’t connect with the real world counterpart until I was emotionally connected to the characters in this story who were experiencing it.
I loved both Mariam and Laila for different reasons. I saw more of myself in Laila’s feistiness, but Mariam’s gentle nature was warm and inviting, and made me care for her and her happiness. Their interactions with the other characters in the book were also enlightening, and I feel like they were just as important to telling the story as the actual plot; the way everyone interacts is informative of the culture in its own way. Everything about this book feels thoughtful and artfully composed to be heart-wrenching.
Sad as it is and hard as it is to read, this is just such an important book. It really shifted my perspective on world politics and opened my eyes to things I didn’t previously get/understand. I’m so glad I read it, finally pulling it out of the tbr pile – I wish I hadn’t waited so long to do so.
Have a fabulous weekend.