The last time I wrote a book review, I was ten years old. It was a school assignment and we were required to review any one of three books. I remember choosing Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. I enjoyed the book but I don’t remember how well that assignment turned out. And for some reason, since my adult years I have had this irrational fear of writing book reviews. In my opinion, writing a book review is one of the most difficult and “delicate” forms of writing. How much of the story line should you discuss? At what point do you need to include a spoiler alert? How do you talk about what you liked and what you didn’t like without fleshing out the story?
Lately I’ve been inspired by reading so many great book reviews in the blogging world. If you like to read, look up TGND and Smitha – both of them write fantastic reviews. Since I’m trying to get rid of this silly fear and improve my writing skills, I decided to give writing a book review another shot. Comments and criticism are most welcome! 🙂
NO MORE MULBERRIES
No more mulberries is the story of Miriam, born as Margaret in Scotland. The story starts with Miriam’s life with her husband, Iqbal, an Afghan doctor and her two children Farid (from a previous marriage) and Ruckshana. A midwife herself with her own consulting clinic in Afghanistan, Miriam is delighted when she is invited to act as an interpreter at a medical teaching camp. Trouble ensues when Iqbal refuses to let her go, believing it inappropriate for a woman to travel alone without her husband. Miriam goes anyway, believing that some time apart will do them good and hoping that Iqbal will shed his patriarchal ideas and become the man that she thought she fell in love with.
The trip is a professional success and gives the reader a sense of the poor medical conditions that existed in rural Afghanistan at the time, as well as the efforts made by the international medical community to dispel superstitious beliefs and medical practices. During the course of the trip, Miriam spends time introspecting about her marriage and is forced to face the ghosts of her previous marriage. The rest of the story revolves around whether her marriage to Iqbal survives or whether the memories of her past love are too overwhelming.
Admittedly, I don’t know much about Afghanistan, but I thought this book did an excellent job of bringing alive the Afghani landscape through the various seasons. The richly descriptive narrative of Miriam’s home, the food she cooks, the village she lives in, and the mountains that surround them transported me to rural Afghanistan. The writer weaves in some other solid characters with Miriam’s women friends and neighbors, her support system in a foreign land, as well as the doctors she works with.
Perhaps the only real criticism I had with this book was that it doesn’t explain how Scottish-born Margaret turns into Miriam, an Afghani wife. The author mentions a few times that “Miriam never felt at home in Scotland and feels more at home in Afghanistan” without really explaining why. Apart from briefly mentioning her parents, the story contains nothing of her former life. Neither does the author explain why Miriam chose to convert to Islam, aside from a paragraph where she surprises her husband by telling him she has decided to embrace Islam. The author uses several Afghani words through the narrative, which I managed to understand with my limited knowledge of Hindi. But for a reader in the western part of the world, a glossary of terms would be helpful.
These issues aside, I thought it was an excellent read. I remember putting the book down and looking around me thinking I was still in Afghanistan. I think it is a mark of an excellent writer when she manages to transport a reader to the place where the story is set. I loved the sedate book cover and thought it complemented the story. I would rate this 4/5 and would definitely recommend it.
On a side note:
If you like to read, please look up this resource – Bookbub. I have always enjoyed reading physical books but ever since I discovered this website, I have been devouring e-books off my kindle. You can sign up for free and they send you great deals on books in categories you like. Makes me feel less guilty buying books, not to mention that it saves a ton of storage space!