Thursday, August 6, 2015

Review: When the Moon Is Low by Nadia Hashimi

The news doesn't show us much about Afghanistan anymore. Other places and concerns have replaced this particular Middle Eastern country in the public consciousness. But many of the issues that brought it to the fore still exist. The Taliban, women's rights violations, extremism, and so forth haven't stopped. We've turned our attention elsewhere but people continue to suffer and Afghans still make the difficult and dangerous choice to flee their homeland in search of asylum elsewhere. The only times that the desperate plight of these refugees is brought to our attention is when a horrible tragedy happens, humanitarian groups shine an uncomfortable light on refugee camps, or a large protest or mass exodus occurs. Otherwise this ongoing crisis is conveniently and quietly ignored. Nadia Hashimi's latest novel, When the Moon Is Low, examines this crisis on a personal level with the tale of an Afghan mother who flees with her three children in tow to try and find a better life for them in London.

Fereiba grew up in Kabul with her father and stepmother, her own mother having died giving birth to her. Her stepmother favored her own children, using Fereiba to help her with housework and childcare, and Fereiba's father never intervened on her behalf in order to keep peace with his wife. Without the love and support that every child deserves, Fereiba had a solitary and sad childhood. Only after the unexpected love she finds in marriage does it look like her life is changing for the better. She and her husband live a comfortable life, she works as a teacher, and they start a family. But when the Taliban arrive, everything is thrown into chaos and Fereiba must learn to live with fear and haunting tragedy. Following the plan her husband set in motion, she makes the difficult and dangerous choice to leave Kabul with her children to try and make their way to her sister in London. Traveling on forged documents, the journey is arduous and exacting. As a mother, Fereiba must watch as her oldest son, Saleem, struggles to become a man without a father and before his time and as her youngest son, a medically fragile infant, suffers and weakens. The small family faces indignities and hardship that they have no choice but to endure and accept as they make their way through an unwelcoming and sometimes hostile Europe. But when Saleem is caught by police without papers, separated from the family, and deported, the blow is horrible. The only option is for Fereiba to go on with the other two children and for Saleem to make his own way.

The story of their flight is emotionally wrenching. Their strength and determination in the face of so many obstacles, including racism and suspicion towards those seeking asylum, is impressive. They do find kind and helpful people to help them along the way so they can maintain hope even in the darkest of times. Hashimi has drawn vivid pictures of the squalor in which refugees live, their desperation and sometime solidarity, and has captured the ever present nagging fear of the displaced extremely well, especially in the character of Saleem. The novel does have a bit of a split personality feeling to it after spending so much time on Fereiba's childhood and courtship and then jumping almost straight into their refugee life with just a tiny bridge over her many years of happiness with Mahmood, her husband and soulmate. The early story is told by Fereiba in the first person while sections focused on Saleem, told in the third person, take precedence in the second half of the novel, although Fereiba continues to narrate the occasional chapter as well. This is an ingenious way to show their experiences as two different faces of the refugee crisis. The story is a compelling and fast read which highlights the continued human cost of oppression and intolerance on a very personal level.

For more information about Nadia Hashimi and the book, check out her website, like her Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter. Takes a look at the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.


  1. This sounds like such a good book. I can't even imagine what it would be like for people in their situation. Thank you for your insightful review!

  2. This sounds like a tough one, but I do hope to read it. Nice review Kristen

  3. Like most immigrant stories this sounds like a difficult very emotional read but a strong book nevertheless.

  4. This sounds like a great read

  5. Wow, this sounds like an incredible read! I can't wait to pick it up myself.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

  6. I loved Hashimi's first book and I can't wait to read this one!


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