Monday, 9 April 2018

When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi

"Kabul's children were not children for long."

Mahmoud's passion for his wife, Fereiba, a schoolteacher, is greater than any love she's ever known. But their happy, middle-class world implodes when their country is engulfed in war and the Taliban rises to power.

When Mahmoud becomes a target of the new fundamentalist regime and is murdered, Fereiba is forced to flee Kabul with their three children. Finding a way for her to reach her sister's family in England is her one hope to survive. With forged papers and help from kind strangers they meet along the way, Fereiba manages to smuggle the children 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, exhausted but undefeated, and ultimately find a place where they can be a family again.

When I read and reviewed Nadia Hashimi's debut novel back in 2015, I commented that I was looking forward to reading more of her work in 2016. Well, it has taken me until 2018 to fulfill that promise but I have enjoyed this novel every bit as much as I enjoyed The Pearl That Broke It's Shell (click on title to read my review.)

This book is set during Afghanistan's darkest days; a time when no one was safe from Taliban extremism, a time when the rights of women were non-existent, a time when children lost their childhood and when boys had to assume the responsibilities of men overnight.

This deeply moving account of the fictional Fereiba and Saleem will be impressed upon my heart and mind for some time to come. It is thought-provoking and, at times, difficult to read and it challenges us all to consider what it must really be like to walk in the shoes of a refugee.

Written in beautiful prose, the narrative switches between Fereiba and Saleem and we are able to ascertain the different physical and emotional journeys they each are on. It is an intelligent and sensitively written novel which has been expertly accomplished by Ms. Hashimi. She has brought to life the difficult issues of human trafficking and immigration that will ensure that every reader will appreciate the courage that it takes for men, women and children to cross borders in the hope of a safer life.

This novel is heart-rending and unsettling but it is also a novel full of hope and inspiration and I highly recommend it. Last time it took me three years to get around to reading another of this author's outstanding books. I guarantee it will not take me so long to read another.

ISBN:  978 0062369611

Publisher: William Morrow

About the Author:

Nadia Hashimi was born and raised in New York and New Jersey. Both her parents were born in Afghanistan and left in the early 1970's before the Soviet invasion. Her mother, the granddaughter of a notable Afghan poet, went to Europe to obtain a master's degree in civil engineering and her father went 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 important part of their daily lives.

Nadia attended Brandeis University, where she obtained degrees in Middle Eastern studies and biology. In 2002, she made her first trip to Afghanistan with her parents, who had not returned to their homeland since leaving in the 1970's. Finding relics of childhood homes and reuniting with loved ones was a bittersweet experience for everyone.

Nadia enrolled in medical school in Brooklyn and became active with an Afghan-American community organisation that promoted cultural events and awareness, especially in the dark days after 9/11. She graduated from medical school and went on to complete her pediatric training at NYU/Bellevue hospitals in New York City. On completing her training, she moved with her husband to Maryland, where she works as a pediatrician. She's also part of the 'Lady Docs', a group of local female physicians who exercise, eat and blog together.

With her rigorous medical training completed, Nadia turned to an interest that had been ignored for too long. Her upbringing, experiences and passions came together in the form of stories based in the country of her parents and grandparents (some even make guest appearances in her tales!)

She and her husband are the beaming parents of four curious, rock-star children and an African grey parrot.

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