A House Without Windows: A Novel (Hardcover)
This story took over my life as I read it, and I still can’t get it out of my mind. I have not read such a powerful book concerning the plight of Afghan women since Khaled Hosseini’s “A Thousand Splendid Suns.”
The story begins when Zeba, a young wife and mother of four young children, is found in her backyard with blood on her hands and her dead husband lying next to her with a hatchet in his head. Her entire village witnessed the aftermath and made their own judgements. For a reason to soon be discovered, Zeba refuses to recount what happened in her backyard, understanding
Zeba is taken to Chil Mahtab, a prison for Afghan women who have been convicted of the broad crime of “zina,” or sex outside of marriage. Her four cellmates support each other as they expose their own so-called crimes. Ironically, though they are imprisoned and kept far from their children, these women feel they are treated better here than ever before.
Yusuf, a young, idealistic graduate of Columbia Law School, is a champion for the causes of the voiceless. He returns to Afghanistan, working for an international human rights organization providing attorneys to his native country. Zeba’s alleged crime becomes Yusuf’s first defense case. He is a rookie with honorable intentions, but is met with skepticism and resentment in Afghanistan. Yusuf does not consider his job an easy one, balancing tradition against progress in a place where people seem suspicious of everything. Furthermore, Zeba, afraid to tell her story, refuses to cooperate with his defense.
If I say more about this novel, you will miss the cultural experiences and the outcome of the story. Let me just say this is an unforgettable portrayal of what modern women, bound by a traditional culture of Afghanistan, face.The story is powerful, riveting, emotional and an excellent read.— From Book reviews: Novels take fictional look at family life
This is the story of Zeba, an Afghan woman, a young wife and mother, who is accused and jailed for killing her husband. Zeba awaits her trial in the Chil Mahtab prison for Afghan women, where she forms a unique friendship with other women awaiting their own trials. Yusuf, a young American lawyer returns to his birthplace in Afghanistan, working for an international human rights organization. His first defense case is Zeba’s alleged crime. Zeba refuses to recount what happened in her backyard, understanding that the truth would be of little benefit in a culture that deems a woman’s testimony worth only a fraction of a man’s. This is an unforgettable portrayal of what modern women, bound by the traditional culture of Afghanistan, face. The story is powerful, riveting, emotional and an excellent read!
-Recommended by Virgie
September 2016 Indie Next List
“Hashimi sets her layered and suspenseful novel at the crossroads of tradition and modernity in present-day Afghanistan. Her nuanced and well-paced tale tells the story of Zeba, who is accused of murdering her husband. In the Chil Mahtab prison, where Zeba awaits her trial and sentencing, she comes to know a colorful cast of female inmates, many of whom are ordinary women who have been snared in various traps of family honor and have been cast away by their families and by society. This is a compassionately written and moving page-turner.”
— Marya Johnston, Out West Books, Grand Junction, CO
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.
About the Author
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. She is the author of three books for adults, as well as the middle grade novels One Half from the East and The Sky at Our Feet. Visit her online at www.nadiahashimi.com.