When the Moon Is Low by Nadia Hashimi
When the Moon Is Low: 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 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. Across the continent Fereiba and Saleem struggle to reunite. And ultimately find a place where they can begin to reconstruct their lives.
Hashimi’s new novel, “When the Moon Is Low,” starts with promise. Hashimi, who works as a pediatrician in the Washington area, effectively plunges us into an Afghan culture steeped in superstition and ossified by tradition. Our narrator is Fereiba, whom we meet as a hopeful young girl in Kabul. She’s eager for romance, education and independence, all of which are frustratingly out of her grasp. That’s in part thanks to her odious stepmother, who keeps Fereiba home from school to help with household chores. She’s finally allowed to matriculate at age 13, as a mortifyingly tall first-grader.
Life is kindest to Fereiba following her arranged marriage to a loving husband named Mahmood. “I realized,” she says, “not long after our wedding, when I caught myself laughing at a joke he’d already told me twice, that I loved this man.” Their early years together coincide with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. A traumatic time for the country but nonetheless an era when Fereiba is free to earn her teaching degree and dress how she pleases.
Then the Taliban rises, imposing a brutal set of rules. Not only must Fereiba don a chador, but the turbaned tyrants and razor-edged religious brutes, as she calls them, bar her from teaching. Though relatives and friends soon flee their ravaged country. Fereiba’s family, which now includes son Saleem and daughter Samira, stay until their worst fears are realized.
Review When the Moon Is Low
“A must-read saga about borders, barriers, and the resolve of one courageous mother fighting to cross over.” – O, the Oprah Magazine
“A heartfelt story of courage amidst a world short on compassion.” – Toronto Star
From the Back Cover
By turns astonishing, frightening, and triumphant. When the Moon Is Low chronicles one brave Afghan woman’s odyssey to save her family
In Kabul, we meet Fereiba, a schoolteacher who puts her troubled childhood behind her when she finds love in an arranged marriage. But Fereiba’s comfortable life implodes. When the Taliban rises to power and her family becomes a target of the new fundamentalist regime. Forced to flee with her three children, Fereiba has one hope for survival: to seek refuge with her sister’s family in London.
Traveling with forged papers and depending on the kindness of strangers. Fereiba and the children make a dangerous crossing into Iran under cover of darkness. The start of a harrowing journey that reduces her from a respected wife and mother to a desperate refugee.
Eventually they fall into the shadowy underground network of the undocumented who haunt the streets of Europe’s cities. And then, in a busy market square in Athens. Their fate takes a frightening turn when Fereiba’s teenage son, Saleem, becomes separated from the rest of the family. Without his mother, Saleem is forced, abruptly and unforgivingly, to come of age in a world of human trafficking and squalid refugee camps.
Heartbroken, Fereiba has no choice but to continue on with only her daughter and baby. Mother and son cross border after perilous border, risking their lives in the hope of finding a place where they can be reunited.
Nadia Hashimi is a pediatrician of Afghan descent. Both her parents left Afghanistan in the early 1970s and settled in the United States to chase the American dream. Her debut novel, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, was an international bestseller. She lives with her family in Maryland.
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