Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Review: A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi

Books take us to places other than those we know. They pull us from our comfort zones and ask us to put ourselves in characters and situations completely outside our realm of experience. For most Americans, Afghanistan is not somewhere we've ever been. It's a place we see on the news or lump in together with the rest of the Middle East. But we don't have much knowledge of life there at all, especially in its villages. Nadia Hashimi's newest novel, The House Without Windows, takes the reader to this Afghanistan to see not only the plight of women there but to see the ways in which its justice system still disproportionately punishes women and how there are people working to right the imbalances so prevalent today.

Zeba has been charged with the murder of her husband, Kamal. She endured his beating and drinking for years, bearing him four living children, cooking and cleaning, and always being a dutiful wife. When she is discovered, with blood on her hands, in the courtyard of their home with her husband's body, there is little doubt that she was the one to embed the hatchet in the back of his skull. But she won't talk about what happened, even after she is arrested and sent to Chil Mahtab, the women's prison. Her biggest concern is not with defending herself nor with whether she will be found guilty but how her four children are doing at their aunt's house, whether Kamal's family is treating them as the children of a murderer, and whether the children will believe all of the terrible things that are surely being said about her. She never for a minute doubts that she will be found guilty and hang for the crime. And there's no reason for her to believe otherwise given all of the other women locked up with her, many for the crime of zina. This crime encompasses an unmarried woman having sex, an unmarried woman dallying/flirting with a coworker, rape, and more. It is essentially a charge of immorality. Such is the lot of women.

Zeba might not talk about what happened the day that Kamal was murdered, but the narrative moves between her present day situation and her past, culminating in the eventual revelation of just what did happen that terrible day. Most of the story is focused on Zeba and her current situation but there are a couple of other interesting threads also woven throughout the story, that of her mother Gulnaz, a jadugar (sorceress), and the father who disappeared when Zeba was just a child as well as that of Yusuf, a young Afghani-born lawyer returned from America and assigned to Zeba's case. The perspective of the story shifts from Zeba to Gulnaz to Yusuf and back again in order to move the plot along. Hashimi does a good job using the imprisoned women in the story to show the overall insignificance of women in the culture and the inequalities they suffer in all aspects of life, but certainly in the justice system. Zeba's situation is horrifying on many levels and the reader can be no more assured of Zeba's receiving true justice than the character herself is. It took skill to weave the story as Hashimi does, balancing the reader's desire with staying true to the reality of the culture. Those interested in women's rights, especially in the Middle East, will find this to be a dynamic and compelling story.

For more information about Nadia Hashimi and the book, check out her website, like her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter. Check out 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 Harper Collins for sending me a copy of this book to review.

1 comment:

I have had to disable the anonymous comment option to cut down on the spam and I apologize to those of you for whom this makes commenting a chore. I hope you'll still opt to leave me your thoughts. I love to hear what you think, especially so I know I'm not just whistling into the wind here at my computer.

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