Sunday, March 14, 2021

Review: Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi (audio)


Title: Sparks Like Stars
Author: Nadia Hashimi
Narrator: Mozhan Marno
Published: March 2021, HarperAudio / William Morrow
Length: 12 hours 2 minutes / 464 pages
Source: Audio via Library / Print - Personal Copy


An Afghan American woman returns to Kabul to learn the truth about her family and the tragedy that destroyed their lives in this brilliant and compelling novel from the best-selling author of The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, The House Without Windows, and When the Moon Is Low.

Kabul, 1978: The daughter of a prominent family, Sitara Zamani lives a privileged life in Afghanistan’s thriving cosmopolitan capital. The 1970s are a time of remarkable promise under the leadership of people like Sardar Daoud, Afghanistan’s progressive president, and Sitara’s beloved father, his right-hand man. But the ten-year-old Sitara’s world is shattered when communists stage a coup, assassinating the president and Sitara’s entire family. Only she survives. 

Smuggled out of the palace by a guard named Shair, Sitara finds her way to the home of a female American diplomat, who adopts her and raises her in America. In her new country, Sitara takes on a new name - Aryana Shepherd - and throws herself into her studies, eventually becoming a renowned surgeon. A survivor, Aryana has refused to look back, choosing instead to bury the trauma and devastating loss she endured. 

New York, 2008: Thirty years after that fatal night in Kabul, Aryana’s world is rocked again when an elderly patient appears in her examination room - a man she never expected to see again. It is Shair, the soldier who saved her, yet may have murdered her entire family. Seeing him awakens Aryana’s fury and desire for answers - and, perhaps, revenge. Realizing that she cannot go on without finding the truth, Aryana embarks on a quest that takes her back to Kabul - a battleground between the corrupt government and the fundamentalist Taliban - and through shadowy memories of the world she loved and lost. 

Bold, illuminating, heartbreaking, yet hopeful, Sparks Like Stars is a story of home - of America and Afghanistan, tragedy and survival, reinvention and remembrance, told in Nadia Hashimi’s singular voice.

My thoughts: This is the first book I've read by Nadia Hashimi but it certainly will not be the last. I picked this up because it was a book club selection for one of the online book clubs I participate in and I am so glad that this book was selected. 

I don't think I've read any books set in Afghanistan and I definitely did not know anything about the coup in 1978. I was in awe at how different things were before that fateful event. This is the type of book that definitely makes you want to learn about what life was like before because it is nothing like what I've been told or have seen, that is for sure and I loved how the author wove the history of Afghanistan into the story. It never felt forced, but fit in just at the right moments.

I loved the way this book was structured, all told from Sitara/Aryana's point of view. It made the story that much more emotional and powerful. I felt that at times, I was right there with her, going through the events. You could feel the emotions - good and bad - come off the page. That is how strong and vivid the writing was.

There is so much going on in this story and yet, I never once felt overwhelmed. I was completely captivated with Sitara/Aryana's story, utterly fascinated with all that had happened to her. Her journey is one filled with heartbreak, yet you cannot help but want her to find the answers she so desperately needs to know. I was in awe of her resilience throughout this much happened to her, yet she never let it keep her down. I also loved how this book reminds us that grief is a process and we all have our own ways of dealing with it.

I was completely consumed by this story and I know it will be one I will not be forgetting anytime soon. I definitely plan on delving into Nadia Hashimi's backlist when I get the chance and in the meantime, I will be recommending this book to is most definitely a must read!!!

Audio thoughts: I decided to listen to this book and it was one of the most powerful audios I have listened to in a while. Mozhan Marno did such a fantastic job with this narration, really infusing the right amount of emotion and tension into her voice as needed. I also had the book on hand to highlight certain passages, but I am so glad I listened as this audio really made the book come alive. 


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