Happy Tuesday and Happy Pub Day to this beautiful new work of literary historical fiction, Silent Hearts, set in Afghanistan and written by Gwen Florio.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
5 piercing stars to Silent Hearts! 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟
Farida Basra is an educated Pakistani woman, and on top of that she has been working outside the home to help support her mother and father. Although they are all educated, her family’s finances are limited because of Farida’s grandfather’s decision to oppose the Partition of Pakistan from India.
Farida’s parents worry she will never marry. She has not been happy with any potential suitors. They finally take a “bride price” for her in exchange for her marriage to someone she has never met, the illiterate son of an Afghan strongman. Farida worries desperately for her future and what this marriage will mean for her, as she will likely have to accept a traditional role in her marriage. Once she marries, eventually she is living with her husband in Afghanistan.
Liv Stoellner is an American aid worker who has moved to Afghanistan along with her husband to help women reclaim their lives after years of subservience, servitude, and abject violence under Taliban rule. She and her husband, Martin, have their own crosses to bear within themselves and in their marriage. They are hoping for a fresh start and a new purpose.
For Farida and her husband, Gul, moving to Afghanistan is full of sacrifices from each of them with Farida losing contact with her family, and Gul having to confront demons from a lifetime ago.
The two women are bound together as friends as Farida works as Liv’s interpreter. Both women are resilient and strong, and they each have different experiences in Kabul and are treated dissimilarly.
What I loved most was gaining insight into people’s experiences in Afghanistan post-September 11, especially the contrasting experiences of the female main characters. Gwen Florio is a journalist, and her writing is like butter, silky smooth, and the pacing built in intensity as the story moved along.
Overall, Silent Hearts is a deeply resonant story that challenged my thinking about cultural differences, power, politics, and the status of women across many cultures, including my own. Silent Hearts is highly recommended if you are looking for enthralling and thought-provoking storytelling.
Thank you to Atria Books for the complimentary copy of this most unforgettable read. Silent Hearts is available now!
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“Highly recommended, especially for fans of Khaled Hosseini.”— Library Journal (starred review)
“A rich, haunting, immersive story of cultures at the crossroads—deeply moving. A heart-smashingly good read, the kind of novel you’ll want to share with your book club.”—Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Love and Other Consolation Prizes and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
For fans of A Thousand Splendid Suns comes a stirring novel set in Afghanistan about two women—an American aid worker and her local interpreter—who form an unexpected friendship despite their utterly different life experiences and the ever-increasing violence that surrounds them in Kabul.
In 2001, Kabul is suddenly a place of possibility as people fling off years of repressive Taliban rule. This hopeful chaos brings together American aid worker Liv Stoellner and Farida Basra, an educated Pakistani woman still adjusting to her arranged marriage to Gul, the son of an Afghan strongman whose family spent years of exile in Pakistan before returning to Kabul.
Both Liv and her husband take positions at an NGO that helps Afghan women recover from the Taliban years. They see the move as a reboot—Martin for his moribund academic career, Liv for their marriage. But for Farida and Gul, the move to Kabul is fraught, severing all ties with Farida’s family and her former world, and forcing Gul to confront a chapter in his life he’d desperately tried to erase.
The two women, brought together by Farida’s work as an interpreter, form a nascent friendship based on their growing mutual love for Afghanistan, though Liv remains unaware that Farida is reporting information about the Americans’ activities to Gul’s family, who have ties to the black market.
As the bond between Farida and Liv deepens, war-scarred Kabul acts in different ways upon them, as well as their husbands. Silent Hearts is an absorbing, complex portrayal of two very different but equally resilient women caught in the conflict of a war that will test them in ways they never imagined.