Rukhsana is a spirited young journalist who works for the Kabul Daily in Afghanistan. She takes care of her ill, widowed mother and her younger brother, Jahan. But then Rukhsana is summoned to appear at the infamous Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, and their quiet and tenuous way of life is shattered.
There, the malevolent minister, Zorak Wahidi, announces that the Taliban has found a new way to pursue the diplomatic respect it has long been denied: cricket. On the world stage of sports, the Taliban will prove they are a fair and just society. Rukhsana and several other journalists are to report that a tournament will be held to determine who will play for Afghanistan. Anyone can put together a team. Women are forbidden to play. The winners will travel to Pakistan to train, then go on to represent Afghanistan around the world.
Rukhsana knows that this is a shameful, and deeply surreal, idea. The Taliban will never embrace a game rooted in civility, fairness, and equality, with no tolerance for violence or cheating. And no one in Afghanistan even knows how to play the game.
Except for Rukhsana.
This could be a way to get her cousins and her brother out of Afghanistan for good. But before she can organize a team, the terrifying Wahidi demands her hand in marriage. He finds her both exciting and infuriating, and wants to control her unruly, willful nature. The union would be her prison, stripping away what few freedoms she has left under Taliban rule and forcing her away from her family. Not marrying Wahidi, however, might mean her death. Her family rallies around her, willing to do anything to protect her, even if it means imprisonment or worse.
But Rukhsana realizes that Wahidi may have given her a way out, too. With the help of her loyal, beloved brother and cousins, she forms her own cricket team and sets about teaching them how to win their freedom - with a bat and a ball.
Inspired by the Taliban's actual and unprecedented promotion of cricket in 2000 in an attempt to gain acceptance in the global community, internationally bestselling author Murari weaves a riveting story of strength, hope, and soaring human triumph that proves no tyranny is ever absolute in the face of love.
"Fans of Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner will here find a similarly uplifting story about good people surviving their horrific circumstances... Murari has crafted a tense, compelling story." - Library Journal
"Though descriptions of the wildly popular game can be dull, a thrilling climax and atypical story line (one that has roots in real life - the Taliban really did try to put together a cricket team in 2000) make this well worth a read." - Publishers Weekly
"Readers will be of two minds, whether Murari's Bend It Like Beckham approach to Taliban repression is trivializing or uplifting." - Kirkus Reviews
"A lovely, diverting and moving tale of contemporary Kabul, about love, courage, passion, tyranny and cricket. Murari has an uncommon tale to tell, and does so with imagination and empathy." - Shashi Tharoor, award-winning author of The Great Indian Novel
"A beautifully written novel that takes the reader through the shrouded world of one woman whose only crime is being a woman... I loved this riveting book." - Deborah Rodriguez, New York Times bestselling author of Kabul Beauty School
"A moving, splendidly realized story of courage and grit in modern-day Kabul. I was won over by Murari's uplifting and vastly entertaining sporting tale, which reaffirms the power of friendship, fellowship, and love in the face of all forms of tyranny." - Vikas Swarup, author of Slumdog Millionaire and Six Suspects
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Timeri N. Murari is an award-winning writer, filmmaker and playwright who began his career as a journalist at The Kingston Whig Standard in Ontario, Canada. TIME magazine chose his film The Square Circle as one of the top ten of the year. He has published fiction and non-fiction, and his bestselling novel Taj, a story of Mughal India, was translated into twenty-one languages. In 2006, he published a memoir, My Temporary Son, exploring his relationship with a desperately ill orphan. Murari now lives with his wife in his ancestral home in Madras, India. Visit him online at www.timerimurari.com.
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