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Mahmood'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.
Mahmood, 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 and her children 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. Fereiba and Saleem struggle to reunite and ultimately find a place where they can begin to reconstruct their lives.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Gillian on 01-25-16
Not Written So Much As Sung!
I didn't mean to listen to this from start to finish with only a tiny nap in between, honest I didn't. It was just too damned engaging, the characters were so well-fleshed out, and the writing! They weren't just words on a page, they were a darned hymn! If I could write like this I'd be sitting at my laptop day and night, enthralled, thankful.
Instead, I'm listening to "When the Moon Is Low," by Nadia Hashimi, enthralled, thankful.
From the beginning, Fereiba is a strong, immensely likable character, kept at home, who will do anything for an education. Then she is swirled through the waters of the conventions of arranged marriage only to get off on an answered prayer.
But nothing is ever easy in Afghanistan. An arranged marriage might not be the worst thing in the world.
As Fereiba says, she lives through, "many regime changes in Afghanistan." Starting with the death of her mother. And it goes from there. There's her stepmother, but there's the Soviet Union as she gets her teaching certificate too. And the Taliban.
Everything goes from loving exposition to utterly breathless from there, but characterization never fails and plot never falters. And once again, at the danger of being hopelessly repetitive, the writing is exemplary.
Sneha Mathan and Neil Shah turn in wonderful performances. I kinda had reservations about Neil Shah, having heard him in a previous audiobook where he turned in a capable but less than stellar performance, and here was a book than demanded fantastic. I was really, really pleased. The hand-off from Fereiba to Saleem is credible, pulse-pounding, and humane.
Spend the money, spend the credit, spend the time on this truly awesome story. It's worth the sleep you'll lose!
46 of 50 people found this review helpful
By Daryl on 11-07-15
beautiful book, the face of Refugees
I read Hashimi''s debut novel, "The Pearl that Broke its Shell"; that book had an interesting concept but desperately needed an editor.
I worried about a similar fate for this book, but enjoyed "Pearl" enough that I gave it a go.
This book described Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation, then the Taliban, and one family's desperate escape to freedom. I loved the descriptions of characters - those who helped and those who hindered - and especially the family that is the focus.
Sneha Mathan is, as always, good as a narrator. I think a little bit of production might have cut out some of the awkward pauses in her performance. Neil Shah had a strong emotive performance, but during dialogue, he would pitch his voice low, which was unnecessary to my ears.
This story gives the face to the current refugee crisis facing the world. I personally enjoyed the first bit of the book, and found the ending was abrupt. This book could have used another chapter or two to round it out further, but those are minor drawbacks to a wonderful book and performance.
33 of 36 people found this review helpful