Wednesday, May 31, 2017

TLC Book Review: A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pub. Date: May 16th, 2017
Pages: 432

Genre: Contemporary Fiction


A vivid, unforgettable story of an unlikely sisterhood—an emotionally powerful and haunting tale of friendship that illuminates the plight of women in a traditional culture—from the author of the bestselling The Pearl That Broke Its Shell and When the Moon Is Low.

For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered with a hatchet in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Her children swear their mother could not have committed such a heinous act. Kamal’s family is sure she did, and demands justice.

Barely escaping a vengeful mob, Zeba is arrested and jailed. As Zeba awaits trial, she meets a group of women whose own misfortunes have also led them to these bleak cells: thirty-year-old Nafisa, imprisoned to protect her from an honor killing; twenty-five-year-old Latifa, who ran away from home with her teenage sister but now stays in the prison because it is safe shelter; and nineteen-year-old Mezhgan, pregnant and unmarried, waiting for her lover’s family to ask for her hand in marriage. Is Zeba a cold-blooded killer, these young women wonder, or has she been imprisoned, as they have been, for breaking some social rule? For these women, the prison is both a haven and a punishment. Removed from the harsh and unforgiving world outside, they form a lively and indelible sisterhood.

Into this closed world comes Yusuf, Zeba’s Afghan-born, American-raised lawyer, whose commitment to human rights and desire to help his motherland have brought him back. With the fate of this seemingly ordinary housewife in his hands, Yusuf discovers that, like Afghanistan itself, his client may not be at all what he imagines.

A moving look at the lives of modern Afghan women, A House Without Windows is astonishing, frightening, and triumphant.

What Did I Think About the Story?

A House Without Windows is simply stunning! The writing is so eloquent that at times I found myself stopping and going back to reread whole passages to savor the author's word usage and way of expressing actions and situations that, often, are anything but beautiful. This novel was a real eye-opener for me and I'm astounded at how little I really know about this world so far removed from my own.

I think the most shocking thing for me was just how stunted (for lack of a better term) the culture that these characters live within still is. The very fact that a woman could be imprisoned or even killed for "crimes against decency" - eating lunch alone with a  man you aren't married or related to, becoming pregnant out of wedlock, running away from an abusive household and bringing shame on your family - boggles my mind. Let alone the fact that a woman such as Zeba might actually be murdered by a mob of neighbors simply because they believe, without any real proof, that she killed her husband. I just can't wrap my head around that sort of belief or justice and I'm amazed that our more modern world can still hold such archaic beliefs. It is no wonder to me, as sad as it is, that some of the women Zeba came to know within the prison prefer the life and safety they have behind bars.

I am always a big fan of good characters and all of the characters in this novel are spectacular, but my favorites have to be our two main characters, Zeba and Yusof, for their ability to show so many sides of this different world. Through Zeba we get to see much of what I would call injustice still going on within Afghanistan as well as some of the more intricate and multifaceted angles of the belief system within that world. In Yusof we get to see a different side of the culture and customs of Afghanistan as well as what it is really like for a Middle Eastern immigrant in America. Straddling those two worlds seems nearly impossible, but through Yusof we get to see how it could be done and he truly is a marvelous character.

With all of this being said, my favorite aspect of the story would have to be trying to untangle Zeba's story to figure out what really happened to her husband, as well as the many connections and actions that led to that point. So much of the story is so florid and eloquently spun that it took some time for me to piece together all the nitty gritty of what occurred. I'm not going to give anything away here, but the journey and the end result was quite interesting.

The only thing I can say at all against this story (and I can't even say it's necessarily a negative) is that the flow and the switching of character perspectives threw me off of the central story from time to time. There are a lot of perspectives thrown in to give the reader a wholly rounded view of not only Zeba's situation but this world at large and this did, at times, make the story drag a bit. But given the grand scope of the story this didn't really pull away from my enjoyment of the story overmuch.

A House Without Windows is a beautiful and heartbreaking story of both justice and injustice within a society very different from what most of us have grown up experiencing. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a truly mesmerizing read and one you can't forget quickly after turning that last page.

What Did I Think About the Cover?

It is beautiful!! In person it's somewhat shimmery and just a great representation of the loneliness and isolation someone in Zeba's experience might face.

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins for providing me with a free copy of A House Without Windows in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine alone. Continue below for more information about the book, the author, and the rest of the blog tour.

About the Author

Photo by Christ Carter Photography


 Nadia Hashimi was born and raised in New York and New Jersey. Both her parents were born in Afghanistan and left in the early 1970s, before the Soviet invasion. In 2002, Nadia made her first trip to Afghanistan with her parents. She is a pediatrician and lives with her family in the Washington, DC, suburbs.

Find out more about Nadia at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

Buy the Book


TLC Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, May 16th: Book by Book
Wednesday, May 17th: Real Life Reading
Wednesday, May 17th: A Bookish Affair
Thursday, May 18th: Helen’s Book Blog
Friday, May 19th: Tina Says…
Monday, May 22nd: Reading is My Super Power
Tuesday, May 23rd: Girl Who Reads
Wednesday, May 24th: From the TBR Pile
Wednesday, May 24th: BookNAround
Thursday, May 25th: The Book Diva’s Reads
Friday, May 26th: Read Her Like an Open Book
Monday, May 29th: Based on a True Story
Tuesday, May 30th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, May 31st: A Literary Vacation
Thursday, June 1st: G. Jacks Writes
Friday, June 2nd: Jenn’s Bookshelves

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