• The Bossy Bookworm

Review of Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi

This peek into a childhood in Kabul and a lifetime of searching and yearning is luminous and vivid in Hashimi's hands.

What will this change? I wonder. If I am no less alone than I was yesterday, what’s the difference? Will I feel released from this knotted grief? Will my dreams soften? Will I still be me?

Young Sitara is living a comfortable life in Kabul in 1978. Her father has a prominent position in the government, and the family has plenty of love and laughter.

But when the military soldiers she's always known turn against those in charge, the men stop protecting her family and help enact a bloody massacre that sweeps up much of the current government administration and their families.

Sparks Like Stars follows Sitara through unlikely alliances, a desperate plan to escape her fiery homeland, and a life with twists and turns that ultimately lead her back to the beginning of it all.

Hashimi's storytelling is luminous. She sets the scene in Kabul with the vivid sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the past that reemerge in Sitara's memories and her subconscious, and she explores Sitara's complicated, ongoing, conflicting feelings of survivor's guilt.

The book's details made me feel the yearning in Sitara's mind and heart that blossomed since her escape from the violence and disruption of coup-era Kabul. Sitara's unsettled feelings about her past, present, and future build and shift until reaching a crescendo that requires action, whereupon she returns to her home city to try to force answers from those determined to keep secrets. Her return to the city is tricky, and while Hashimi offers some resolutions, nothing feels too simple or easy.

Hashimi's writing is beautiful, and I cared about Sitara and her dilemmas and struggles and celebrated her triumphs. The supporting characters are perfectly imperfect (Tilly!).

I listened to Sparks Like Stars as an audiobook, and narrator Mozhan Marno was wonderful.

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Nadia Hashimi is also the author of The Pearl that Broke Its Shell, When the Moon Is Low, A House Without Windows, One Half from the East, and The Sky at Our Feet.