When The Moon Is Low
By Nadia Hashimi
William Morrow July 2015
Received for review from TLC Book Tours and the publisher
Fereiba is a mother forced to make difficult choices. When her husband Mahmoud is taken by the Taliban, she holds out hope that her family will be reunited. But when she learns that her husband will not be coming back, she takes her teenage son Saleem, her daughter Samira, and her sick infant son Aziz on a perilous journey towards safety. Fereiba is desperate to reach her family in England, but along the way, the family must get past guarded borders, find a way to survive in spite of immense poverty, and overcome discrimination from people who cannot fathom the pain and terror they have survived.
When The Moon Is Low is told from the perspectives of Fereiba and later on, Saleem. We see Fereiba as a young girl who feels unloved in her family. When she is promised in marriage to Mahmoud, she thinks that it can't be any worse than the way her stepmother treats her. To her surprise, she falls in love with her husband and he falls for her. The two of them are immensely happy together with their children until the Taliban destroys their family.
In the wake of their grief, they must flee everything they have ever known. Fereiba and Saleem try to make things better for each other - Fereiba downplays Aziz's illness and Samira's refusal to speak since her father's death and Saleem does not report the fact that he has been stealing food for the family to survive and that he works terrible, backbreaking hours for menial pay while dreaming of being a normal kid. Fereiba wonders how much freedom and responsibility to give her son as he becomes a man. Saleem longs for the childhood he missed all the while recognizing his role as man of the family. While these are obviously not issues that most of us face as parents, the uncertainty of how much to shelter our children and how much to share will resonate for anyone who had to make a tough call about being honest with their child. Just when they start to hope that they just might make it to safety, Saleem is separated from his family and Fereiba must choose whether to continue into the unknown or wait and hope Saleem can find his way back to them.
This is a beautiful book. Fereiba and Saleem are characters who will quickly make themselves at home in your heart as you hope with bated breath that they find a safe harbor after all they have weathered. The plight of refugees is comfortably distant for most of us. We don't have to imagine what it would be like to panic as we go through check points with forged documents or to live in a squatter's camp full of people displaced from their homes. Ms. Hashimi imbues her characters with great humanity and shows readers that refugees and illegal immigrants are not issues; they are someone's mother, son, or daughter, and each one has a story to tell and a future to hope for. I was swept up in this story of one family's courage and commitment to each other. I can't wait to pick up Hashimi's first book The Pearl That Broke Its Shell.
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