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"A book is a gift you can open again and again." Garrison Keillor

Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood.” Jane Yolen

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Monday, July 27, 2015

2015 Book 224: WHEN THE MOON IS LOW by Nadia Hashimi

When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi
ISBN: 9780062369574 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062369628 (ebook)
ASIN: B00OY3STN4 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 21, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow

Mahmoud'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.
Mahmoud, 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 makes 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. Across the continent Fereiba and Saleem struggle to reunite, and ultimately find a place where they can begin to reconstruct their lives.

Fereiba is a teacher, wife, and mother. Her adult life in Afghanistan is better than even she expected until the Taliban came into power. In a short time she's lost her job and then her husband. Her sole concern is to make a better life for all of her children, the two that are already born, and the one she is carrying. Her eldest child is a boy, Saleem, and he agrees with his mother that they need to leave Afghanistan. Their struggles and quest for freedom are revealed in When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi.

Fereiba had a sad childhood. Her mother died in childbirth and she was raised by her stepmother. The only real love she received was from her paternal grandfather. Her stepmother convinced Fereiba's father that she was needed at home to help with her younger half-siblings. Even when her sisters were older and all attending school, her stepmother felt there was no need for Fereiba to attend school. It is a testament to Fereiba's will that she began first grade at age 13 and quickly advanced to graduate on schedule. Unfortunately for Fereiba, her mother's death was seen as a negative in Afghani culture. Her first fiancé, an ugly bully, died shortly after the engagement. She had met a young man in her father's orchard and it was presumed that he would seek her hand in marriage, but he marries her oldest half-sister. Just when thought all was lost, she becomes engaged to Mahmoud Waziri. His family ensures she furthers her education and she becomes a teacher. Their marriage was childless for a number of years before she had two children and became pregnant with a third child. Then war breaks out and she is no longer allowed to teach. And then the Taliban comes for her husband, he subsequently disappears and is presumed dead. Without a husband, brother, or father as a protector and no income, the only option Fereiba sees for herself and her children is to immigrate to England. The journey is long and arduous, as the family travels from Afghanistan to Iran, onto Turkey, and then Greece. Fereiba is forced to rely upon her son Saleem and his efforts to work and provide for this family of four. Will they be able to make it to England?

I read When the Moon is Low in one sitting because I couldn't wait to find out what happens next. I found it to be a captivating and wholly engrossing read. I became invested in the trials and tribulations of Fereiba and her son Saleem. I felt despair when times were hard and cheered them on when they moved on against all odds. The reader is given Fereiba's backstory featuring her childhood and the circumstances of her marriage. We're also given a fascinating glimpse into the present with Saleem's story as a migrant, teenage refugee seeking work in Turkey and Greece. Ms. Hashimi has provided an extraordinary glimpse into the hardships that Afghan refugees faced in their attempts to find freedom. I felt all of the characters in this story were well developed and realistic. There are plenty of people that helped Fereiba and Saleem out of the goodness of their hearts, and there are those that took advantage. At its heart, I felt that When the Moon is Low was a story of a search for a better life and survival. This isn't an overly sad story although there are plenty of sad elements, yet it remains a story of hope. If you enjoy reading about other cultures or are simply seeking a good story, then I strongly urge you to grab a copy of When the Moon is Low as soon as possible (yes, it is just that good!).

Disclaimer: I received a print copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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