Sparks Like Stars – a novel set in Kabul

The current situation in Afghanistan is madness. The horrors being experienced by citizens and foreigners are unimaginable as thousands run for their lives. Sadly, the land that is now Afghanistan has a long history of domination by foreign conquerors and strife among internally warring factions, from Genghis Khan to ISIS.

In March, I read an astonishing novel by Nadia Hashimi set in Kabul during the 1978 communist coup. It has eerie similarities to what is taking place today. Hashimi was born and raised in New York and New Jersey, but both her parents were born in Afghanistan and left in the early 1970s before the Soviet invasion. She writes with an authentic voice.

Kabul, 1978: The daughter of a prominent family, Sitara Zamani, lives a privileged life in Afghanistan’s thriving cosmopolitan capital. The 1970s are a time of remarkable promise under the leadership of people like Sardar Daoud, Afghanistan’s progressive president, and Sitara’s beloved father, his right-hand man. But the ten-year-old Sitara’s world is shattered when communists stage a coup, assassinating the president and Sitara’s entire family. Only she survives. Smuggled out of the palace by a guard, she is adopted by an American diplomat who raises her in America.

New York, 2008: Thirty years after that fatal night in Kabul, Sitara’s world is rocked again when an elderly patient appears in her examination room—a man she never expected to see again. It is Shair, the soldier who saved her, yet may have murdered her entire family. Seeing him awakens Aryana’s fury and desire for answers.

Her father had once told her that the world lived within her. That her bones were made of mountains. That rivers coursed through her veins. That her heartbeat was the sound of a thousand pounding hooves. That her eyes glittered with the light of a starry sky. That is the gorgeous, lyrical writing you’ll experience in Sparks Like Stars. It’s not the type of book you’ll breeze through; it is the type you’ll savor. The author painted vivid word pictures that engaged all my senses: the sounds of the Kabul marketplace, the chaos of the coup, the fragrance of the gardens, and the despair of a little girl whose family is murdered before her eyes.

It was that strength she calls upon when she leaves all she knows behind to forge a new life in the United States. Sparks Like Stars is epic, emotional, and educational. It’s a great choice for book clubs because there is so much to discuss, and I’ll be recommending it to mine when my turn rolls around. 5 stars.

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