2017 Book 160: A HOUSE WITHOUT WINDOWS by Nadia Hashimi

A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi 
ISBN: 9780062449658 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780062449665 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062472632 (audiobook)
ASIN: B01825C5HK (Kindle edition)
Publisher: William Morrow 
Release Date: May 16, 2017

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. 

When we first meet Zeba, she seems a typical Afghani wife and mother. She lives in a traditional, patriarchal society and knows that, as a woman, she has little if any rights that aren’t given to her by men. Found with the blood of her deceased husband on her hands and no witnesses to his death, Zeba is charged with murder. She must rely upon the system devised by men and governed by men to find justice in A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi.

Life in Afghanistan after the Taliban and Gulf War has not been easy for any Afghan citizens, but it is much easier for male citizens than for the female. Women are routinely imprisoned with claims of “zina” or fornication and the system is rigged such that the women are presumed guilty and must prove their innocence beyond any shadow of a doubt. Girls and women that leave abusive households are imprisoned for running away. A woman seen in the company of a man is guilty of fornication. What justice can there be in this type of society for a woman accused of killing her alcoholic and abusive husband? Zeba knows that justice may not be found for her and isn’t even willing to participate in her defense. What she does find is friendship amongst the women in the Chil Mahtab prison. It takes her awhile to acclimate to the prison environment and overcome the fears she has for her children, but slowly Zeba learns the plight of the other women sharing her cell and in the prison. 

Growing up, Zeba watched her mother practice jadu or witchcraft and vowed to never have anything to do with these practices. Once she begins to empathize and sympathize with her cellmates, she helps her young pregnant cellmate with a small spell. Even she is amazed when it works and the pregnant teen gets married to the love of her life and is released from prison. Other women in the prison quickly come to her for help and although she doesn’t promise anything, she does promise to pray for each woman in turn. Is it possible that this daughter of a witch and granddaughter of a beloved Islamic leader could possibly help others with either witchcraft or devout prayers? How can she possibly help others when she can’t even help herself?

I have read and enjoyed Ms. Hashimi’s previous books, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell and When the Moon is Low, so it wasn’t very surprising that I’d fall in love with A House Without Windows. I found this to be an engaging if not entrancing read that kept me enthralled until the last page. I simply had to know what would happen to Zeba and the others in the story. It was Zeba’s story, slowly revealed (no, I won’t tell you any more, read the book!) that kept me turning the pages, but I was just as enamored with the story of Yusuf, Zeba’s lawyer. Yusuf was born in Afghanistan and raised in America. He has returned to Afghanistan with the help of ensuring that justice is served for all not just for a select few. As am American Muslim woman, there were parts of this story that made me cringe. It was hard to reconcile the traditional cultural practices found in this story that were couched in pseudo-Islamic values with what I know as un-Islamic values and practices. Does that mean these practices don’t happen? Sadly, the answer is no. Ms. Hashimi has realistically portrayed these somewhat warped practices that occur in not just Afghanistan but across so-called Islamic societies. A House Without Windows is much more than the story of one woman and her fight for justice, it is the story of friendship and survival despite the traditional patriarchal societies these women live in. As I previously mentioned, I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed all of Ms. Hashimi’s writings and wholeheartedly recommend you read A House Without Windows. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Hashimi in the future.

Disclaimer: I received a free print copy of this book for review purposes. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Meet the Author:


Photo by Chris 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.

This review brought to you by TLC Book Tours 

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A House Without Windows: A Novel

A House without Windows



A House Without Windows


2015 Book 224: WHEN THE MOON IS LOW by Nadia Hashimi

When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi

ISBN: 9780062369574 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062369628 (ebook)
ASIN: B00OY3STN4 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 21, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow

Mahmoud’s passion for his wife Fereiba, a schoolteacher, is greater than any love she’s ever known. But their happy, middle-class world—a life of education, work, and comfort—implodes when their country is engulfed in war, and the Taliban rises to power.

Mahmoud, a civil engineer, becomes a target of the new fundamentalist regime and is murdered. Forced to flee Kabul with her three children, Fereiba has one hope to survive: she must find a way to cross Europe and reach her sister’s family in England. With forged papers and help from kind strangers they meet along the way, Fereiba makes a dangerous crossing into Iran under cover of darkness. Exhausted and brokenhearted but undefeated, Fereiba manages to smuggle them as far as Greece. But in a busy market square, their fate takes a frightening turn when her teenage son, Saleem, becomes separated from the rest of the family.

Faced with an impossible choice, Fereiba pushes on with her daughter and baby, while Saleem falls into the shadowy underground network of undocumented Afghans who haunt the streets of Europe’s capitals. Across the continent Fereiba and Saleem struggle to reunite, and ultimately find a place where they can begin to reconstruct their lives.

Fereiba is a teacher, wife, and mother. Her adult life in Afghanistan is better than even she expected until the Taliban came into power. In a short time she’s lost her job and then her husband. Her sole concern is to make a better life for all of her children, the two that are already born, and the one she is carrying. Her eldest child is a boy, Saleem, and he agrees with his mother that they need to leave Afghanistan. Their struggles and quest for freedom are revealed in When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi.

Fereiba had a sad childhood. Her mother died in childbirth and she was raised by her stepmother. The only real love she received was from her paternal grandfather. Her stepmother convinced Fereiba’s father that she was needed at home to help with her younger half-siblings. Even when her sisters were older and all attending school, her stepmother felt there was no need for Fereiba to attend school. It is a testament to Fereiba’s will that she began first grade at age 13 and quickly advanced to graduate on schedule. Unfortunately for Fereiba, her mother’s death was seen as a negative in Afghani culture. Her first fiancé, an ugly bully, died shortly after the engagement. She had met a young man in her father’s orchard and it was presumed that he would seek her hand in marriage, but he marries her oldest half-sister. Just when thought all was lost, she becomes engaged to Mahmoud Waziri. His family ensures she furthers her education and she becomes a teacher. Their marriage was childless for a number of years before she had two children and became pregnant with a third child. Then war breaks out and she is no longer allowed to teach. And then the Taliban comes for her husband, he subsequently disappears and is presumed dead. Without a husband, brother, or father as a protector and no income, the only option Fereiba sees for herself and her children is to immigrate to England. The journey is long and arduous, as the family travels from Afghanistan to Iran, onto Turkey, and then Greece. Fereiba is forced to rely upon her son Saleem and his efforts to work and provide for this family of four. Will they be able to make it to England?

I read When the Moon is Low in one sitting because I couldn’t wait to find out what happens next. I found it to be a captivating and wholly engrossing read. I became invested in the trials and tribulations of Fereiba and her son Saleem. I felt despair when times were hard and cheered them on when they moved on against all odds. The reader is given Fereiba’s backstory featuring her childhood and the circumstances of her marriage. We’re also given a fascinating glimpse into the present with Saleem’s story as a migrant, teenage refugee seeking work in Turkey and Greece. Ms. Hashimi has provided an extraordinary glimpse into the hardships that Afghan refugees faced in their attempts to find freedom. I felt all of the characters in this story were well developed and realistic. There are plenty of people that helped Fereiba and Saleem out of the goodness of their hearts, and there are those that took advantage. At its heart, I felt that When the Moon is Low was a story of a search for a better life and survival. This isn’t an overly sad story although there are plenty of sad elements, yet it remains a story of hope. If you enjoy reading about other cultures or are simply seeking a good story, then I strongly urge you to grab a copy of When the Moon is Low as soon as possible (yes, it is just that good!).

Disclaimer: I received a print copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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