A vivid, unforgettable story of an unlikely sisterhood—an emotionally powerful and haunting tale of friendship that illuminates the plight of women in a traditional culture—from the author of the bestselling The Pearl That Broke Its Shell and When the Moon Is Low.
For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered with a hatchet in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Her children swear their mother could not have committed such a heinous act. Kamal’s family is sure she did, and demands justice.
Barely escaping a vengeful mob, Zeba is arrested and jailed. As Zeba awaits trial, she meets a group of women whose own misfortunes have also led them to these bleak cells: thirty-year-old Nafisa, imprisoned to protect her from an honor killing; twenty-five-year-old Latifa, who ran away from home with her teenage sister but now stays in the prison because it is safe shelter; and nineteen-year-old Mezhgan, pregnant and unmarried, waiting for her lover’s family to ask for her hand in marriage. Is Zeba a cold-blooded killer, these young women wonder, or has she been imprisoned, as they have been, for breaking some social rule? For these women, the prison is both a haven and a punishment. Removed from the harsh and unforgiving world outside, they form a lively and indelible sisterhood.
Into this closed world comes Yusuf, Zeba’s Afghan-born, American-raised lawyer, whose commitment to human rights and desire to help his motherland have brought him back. With the fate of this seemingly ordinary housewife in his hands, Yusuf discovers that, like Afghanistan itself, his client may not be at all what he imagines.
A moving look at the lives of modern Afghan women, A House Without Windows is astonishing, frightening, and triumphant.
GENRE: Contemporary General Fiction
PUBLISHER: William Morrow Paperbacks
RELEASE DATE: May 16, 2017
“If Zeba had been a woman less ordinary, Kamal might have seen it coming…”
A House Without Windows is a story that reveals itself in layers. It’s very often a painful story to read – the rawness of injustice toward Afghani women, the disgusting cruelty of one man in particular, the anguish of souls on these pages. It is a cry for fairness that should cut deep in the hearts of women who complain over relatively minor (in the scheme of things) issues like equal pay.
The characters, too, are layered and but for the grace of God could be any of us. Jailed for eating lunch with a neighbor who happens to be male. Jailed for running away from an abusive family – and for kidnapping because you had the audacity to take your young sister with you. Jailed for becoming pregnant after rape. Jailed for being raped. It’s unfathomable to those of us who have lived under freedom, in a country who honors the voice of women and encourages it. These characters put the complaints of American women into perspective, in my opinion. Not that we shouldn’t always be championing women’s rights but that we should perhaps first make sure all women have the fabulous rights we already have before we cry ‘injustice’ here. (Please don’t send me hate mail. Read this book instead.)
Yusef’s story … i didn’t think it added much to the narrative one way or the other. It felt almost like one layer too many. I was captivated by Zeba, by her story, by her mother. And other than how Yusef’s story intersected with Zeba’s, I could have done without it.
Bottom Line: A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi is lyrical and diverse, the Afghani culture (the good and the bad) richly painted across the pages. Zeba’s story is intriguing and wonderful and horrible all at once. But most of all it’s inspiring and I recommend it for anyone who wants more than the status quo in their fiction.
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 4 stars / Powerful story
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Reviewer’s note: Readers may want to be aware that there are (a very few) minor curse words scattered throughout this novel, as well as discussions that may be difficult for some people to read.
Nadia Hashimi was born and raised in New York and New Jersey. Both her parents were born in Afghanistan and left in the early 1970s, before the Soviet invasion. In 2002, Nadia made her first trip to Afghanistan with her parents. She is a pediatrician and lives with her family in the Washington, DC, suburbs.
Other Books by Nadia Hashimi