This book was so fantastic and so horrifying at the same time. It is a novel about the two wives of an abusive, arrogant, Pashto man in Kabul and how the older wife becomes a hero.
It is a story of love and sacrifice and warring ideologies. And of course, human rights violations.
My Book Group Wanted to Know
Tom, an indie bookstore worker: “Is the potential for violence against and dominance over women inherent in men in every culture? How do we as men overcome this? What parts of Rashid’s character do we identify with?”
Chuck, a retired community college professor: “The situation in Afghanistan with the Taliban could easily recur. The US is pulling out of Afghanistan and the Taliban is likely to come back. What do we do to help the women?”
He referenced instances in the novel where the women were beaten by police for trying to escape their abuser and one scene where, because the Taliban gave all the foreign aid to MEN’s hospitals only, the younger wife in the book has to give birth by C-section…with no anesthetic. (I about passed out reading it.)
Melana, who grew up in Communist Czechoslovakia, as it was then: “Some of you are saying the answer is education and exposure to other cultures–I don’t think American TV programs represent the best of our ideas. How would we provide this “education”? And how would we get our government to do anything if US interests aren’t at stake–let’s be honest, we only get involved in the affairs of other nations if there is something in it for us.”
Jaime, who runs a women’s shelter: “I see situations like the one in the book all the time. How do we bring awareness to domestic violence here at home?”
Judy, a donor to and sponsor of the same shelter: “Did you notice the theme of love in the book? Mariam’s love for her father, and her love for Laila and for Aziza was so moving. Also, I was interested in the linguistics of the book–I didn’t read it–I listened to it on tape. The Arab speaker who read the book–a woman–pronounced everything much differently than it was phoneticized on paper.”
Me: “I’m very interested in linguistics. Remember back in the 80’s, when I grew up, and the media couldn’t decide whether it was Colonel Kaddafi, Gadhafi, or Quaddafi? That made me crazy.”
What Can WE do?
After book group I discovered a book called Veiled Courage, which profiles the Revolutionary Women’s Association of Afghanistan–women who resisted the Taliban. RAWA has a multi-language website. We can help them…behind the burka, they’ve been fighting for human rights for women since 1977.
Here is the link to RAWA’s suggestions on how we can help our Afghan sisters.
At the end of this novel, the older wife sacrifices herself so the other wife and her children can get away. Marian is then beheaded by the Taliban. I am getting tearful just remembering this part. I sobbed during parts of this novel. The writing is so powerful. It’s been a long time since a book made my cry my eyes out.
Rating: 50 embroidered silk handkerchiefs