Nadia Hashimi’s books are all deeply evocative, without becoming over-emotional. Her powerful storytelling transports readers into the very heart of her characters so that we’re able to truly experience their reality: every challenge, triumph and heartbreak that they go through … in glorious technicolour!
Sparks Like Stars tells the 2-part story of Sitara who spends her childhood in Kabul. Her father is chief advisor to President Daoud, and so she and her family spend much time at the Presidential Palace of Arg. It’s like her second home and she’s quite content there with her best friend Neelab, the President’s daughter. They are happy and carefree and there is plenty of space to play and run free. The palace guards fondly indulge them in their mischief, and they are both secure in the knowledge that they’re safe
On the night of April 27, 1978 when Sitara is just 10 years old, there’s a communist coup. Soldiers and military storm the palace, murdering the President, his family and Sitara’s family along with them. Miraculously Sitara survives and is smuggled out of the palace. Eventually she is handed over to an American diplomat and after some time and numerous challenges, she finds herself in America.
The second part of the book opens towards the end of 2008. Sitara – now known by the name Aryana – is a successful oncologist – but she’s never really processed her childhood trauma. She’s moved forward without actually dealing with the devastation that she lived through, never acknowledging what she survived. Until a patient in her care abruptly brings her face to face with her past, making her realize that it might be time to return to Kabul and find some answers that she didn’t even know she was looking for.
The story is fiction, and the characters are created from the author’s imagination. However, it’s filled with historical facts and I need to point out the one in particular that I found fascinating and that I looked up further info on was that of the ‘Overlanders’. The entire hippie trail, in fact, was a form of alternative tourism that sadly came to an end in the late ’70’s due to the changing political climate and the increasingly declining hospitality towards Western travelers. So, so interesting. But of course, to find out what role this plays in Sitara’s story, you’ll need to read the book!
Overall, Sitara isn’t the most endearing character. She’s understandably distant and aloof and it’s clear to the reader that there’s a part of her that’s missing. But her courage, strength of character and tenacity are admirable – born from a combination of what she’s endured, characteristics instilled in her from parents and a time barely remembered and those taught to her by new, strong female role models in the country she now calls home.
Hashimi is a born storyteller and she artfully intertwines threads of wisdom seamlessly into her work. I often found myself backtracking and thinking “now that’s a beautiful quote!” The subject matter is by no means light, but it’s certainly absorbing and will capture you from the beginning. It’s a 5-star read that I’d highly recommend.
Thank you to Random Things Blog Tours for inviting me.
Nadia Hashimi was born and raised in New York and New Jersey. Both her parents were born in Afghanistan and left in the early 1970’s, 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 books, One Half From the East and The Sky at Our Feet. Visit her online at http://www.nadiahashimi.com.