In light of the current Russian invasion (or according to Putin, military exercises) in Ukraine, the month’s last book review strikes a chord as it begins with the Russian supported military coup in Afghanistan during the Cold War. Long before the West had heard much about Afghanistan and the Taliban and 9/11, Kabul was a thriving cosmopolitan capital. American and Russia vied for its attention and its resources, offering the construction of dams, roads, and universities to sweeten their cause. In my lifetime, I can’t recall when Afghanistan was a tourist destination with its beautiful landscapes, rich history and situation on the silk road at the crossroads of central and south Asia. Since the 70’s the country is more associated with coups, wars, invasions and of course the hard line political and religious control of the Taliban. The book is of Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi and published by William Morrow
( http://www.harpercollins.com/collections/william-morrow ) on the 17th March.
The book is told through the eyes of Sitara Zamani, the daughter of a prominent family associated and living in close contact with the country’s president. When the two families are assassinated during the coup, only Sitara survives. She is smuggled from the scene by a soldier called Shair.
Sitara is adopted by an American diplomate and is moved to America under another name. There, she finishes her education and eventually trains as a surgeon. Thirty years after the night of the coup, her world is rocked again when a patient presents himself for consultation. It is Shair. Seeing him awakens her desire for answers and perhaps revenge? She returns to Kabul, now a battleground between a corrupt government and the fundamentalist Taliban to learn the truth about her family.
I started this book quite late but managed to read it in a few days. It feels like an epic read but it is so interesting and well plotted I was eager to keep going. It covers the whole story of Sitara’s life, describing her childhood, the coup, her escape, and early life in America in some detail. It then jumps forward to the present period of her meeting with Shair and her search for the truth. The jump in period was necessary as otherwise the book would be a massive tome, but it was a little disconcerting, I had been so enjoying the trials and tribulations of Sitara’s escape and arrival in the states, I’d have quite happily read a couple of hundred pages more! This is because Nadia Hamini’s style of writing is so engaging. The characters are beautifully described. I think its very hard to write children and adolescents, believeably if you are also writing about adults too.
I loved the descriptions of the places too, but it was the warmness and humanity of the majority of the Afghani people who populated this book, that make you wish things were different and you could freely visit their country.
Mothers and their relationships with their daughters are also featured here. You could almost feel the motherly love and compassion in some of the passages. This was highlighted by the lack of maternal instinct in Sitara’s first home in the USA. I particularly liked how the relationship between Antonia and Tilly was described. They sound like the kind of women I’d love to hang out with.
This American author and Pediatrician Nadia Hashimi’s ( http://www.nadiahashimibooks.com ) fourth book, her others are all international bestsellers – The Pearl that Broke Its Shell (2014), When The Moon Is Low (2015) and A House Without Windows (2016). She’s also written two childrens books. 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.
As I say I rushed through this novel a little in my haste to make the blog tour post, but it will be a book I recommend to my bookclub and plan to read again slowly to savour. This would be an ideal Mother’s Day gift so get down to your local bookseller soon.
Reviewed by Georgina Murphy
This book is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other reviwers thought, visit their blogs listed beliow. then, if you get a copy, come back and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.