Excerpt from When the Moon Is Low by Nadia Hashimi, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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When the Moon Is Low

A Novel

by Nadia Hashimi

When the Moon Is Low by Nadia Hashimi X
When the Moon Is Low by Nadia Hashimi
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2015, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2016, 384 pages

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Print Excerpt

The small man
Builds cages for everyone
He
Knows.
While the sage,
Who has to duck his head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
For the
Beautiful
Rowdy
Prisoners.


—"DROPPING KEYS" BY HAFIZ, A FOURTEENTH-CENTURY SUFI POET

PROLOGUE
Fereiba

THOUGH I LOVE TO SEE MY CHILDREN RESTING SOUNDLY, IN THE quiet of their slumber my uneasy mind retraces our journey. How did I come to be here, with two of my three children curled on the bristly bedspread of a hotel room? So far from home, so far from voices I recognize.

In my youth, Europe was the land of fashion and sophistication. Fragrant body creams, fine tailored jackets, renowned universities. Kabul admired the fair-complexioned imperialists beyond the Ural Mountains. We batted our eyelashes at them and blended their refinement with our tribal exoticism.

When Kabul crumbled, so did the starry-eyed dreams of my generation.

We no longer saw Europe's frills. We could barely see beyond our own streets, so thick were the plumes of war. By the time my husband and I decided to flee our homeland, Europe's allure had been reduced to its singular, sexiest quality—peace.

I AM NO LONGER A NEW BRIDE OR A YOUNG WOMAN. I AM A mother, farther from Kabul than I have ever been. My children and I have crossed mountains, deserts, and oceans to reach this dank hotel room, utterly unsophisticated and unfragrant. This land is not what I expected. Good thing all that I coveted from a youthful distance is no longer important to me.

Everything I see, hear, and touch is not my own. My senses burn with the foreignness of my days.

I dare not disturb the children, as much as my heart wishes they would wake and interrupt my thoughts. I let them sleep because I know how exhausted they feel. We are a tired bunch, sometimes too tired to smile at one another. As much as I'd like to sleep, I feel obligated to stay awake and listen to the nervous banging in my head.

I long to hear Saleem's determined footsteps in the hallway.

My wrist is bare. My gold bangles and their melancholy clink are gone. It was my plan to sell them. Our pockets are too empty for us to brave the rest of our journey. There is still a long road ahead before we reach our destination.

Saleem is so eager to prove himself. He's more like his father than his adolescent heart could realize. He thinks of himself as a man, and much of that may be my doing. Too many times I've given him reason to believe he is one. But he is not much more than a boy, and the unforgiving world is eager to remind him of it.

I'm going, Madar-jan.

If we hide in a room every time we are nervous, we will never make it to England.

There was truth to what he said. I bit my tongue, but the gnawing feeling in my stomach condemns me for it. Until my son returns, I will stare at the sickly white walls, paintings of anchors, faded artificial flowers. I will wait for the walls to collapse, for the anchors to crash to the floor and the flowers to turn into dust. I need Saleem to come back.

I think of my husband more now than I did in those days he stood by my side. What foolish and ungrateful hearts we have when we are young.

I wait for the doorknob to turn, for my son to enter, boasting that he's done for our family what I could not. I would give anything for him not to risk as much as he does. But I have nothing to barter for such a naïve wish. All I have is spread before me, two innocent souls lightly stirring in their own troubled dreams.

I can touch them still, I remind myself. Saleem will return, God willing, and we will be as close to complete as we can hope to be. One day, we will not look over our shoulders in fear or sleep on borrowed land with one eye open or shudder at the sight of a uniform. One day we will have a place to call home. I will carry these children—my husband's children—as far as I can and pray that we will reach that place where, in the quiet of their slumber, I, too, will rest.

PART ONE

Excerpted from When the Moon Is Low by Nadia Hashimi. Copyright © 2015 by Nadia Hashimi. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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