Rating:

house without windows book coverReviewed by Benish Khan

A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi revolves around the lives of modern Afghan women. The character Zeba used to be a wife, mother, and a peaceful villager. Her husband Kamal is found murdered outside the courtyard of their house and as anyone sane would be, Zeba is overcome with grief and shock. Unfortunately, due to her altered state, she cannot recall where she was at the time of the murder leading her husband’s family to believe that she has murdered her own husband.

Zeba is arrested and jailed. While awaiting trial, she bonds with a group of other Afghan women who share their stories with her. She meets Nafisa, a teenager who was imprisoned to protect her from an honor killing. (Honor killings are quite common in certain cultures and are performed by people when they believe someone has committed a crime. In their mind, murdering that person will protect their reputation.) Zeba also meets Latifa, a runaway who believes jail is a safe shelter from the outside world. There is Mezhgan, who is pregnant and unmarried, and waiting for the court’s order.

This novel gave me the same vibes as A Thousand Splendid Suns. Not many people are aware of this, but a lot of Afghanistan’s prisoners are female and in many instances, they are innocent. Their only “crime” is that they broke some social rule…like talking to a man other than their husband or going out alone in public.

Hashimi does an excellent job of examining the lives of Afghan women whose minds are modern but who are restricted in their actions by conservative laws of their country. The author shed some light on social norms, issues, and the lives of these women. They do have a voice, but it’s hidden. If they speak, they’re punished. This is a real eye-opener to what still goes on in Afghanistan in the 21st century.

A House Without Windows is a moving novel full of tragedy, hardship, and emotion. At the same time, it’s suspenseful and I never knew what would come next.

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Benish Khan has her B.A in Psychology and Religion from the University of New York. She’s a psychologist and artist by day, and a bookworm by night. She currently blogs at feministreflections.com.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.