Excerpt from A Door in the Earth by Amy Waldman, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Door in the Earth

by Amy Waldman

A Door in the Earth by Amy Waldman X
A Door in the Earth by Amy Waldman
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2019, 400 pages

    Oct 2020, 400 pages


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He wasn't what she had expected. Issa was Crane's right hand in Afghanistan. The memoir described him as  an impish do- gooder who'd abandoned  a career as an antiquities smuggler to help save Afghan mothers. When Crane had sought to build a clinic in the village to which Parveen was now headed, Issa was relentless in his efforts to help, dogged in his negotiations with bureaucrats, bandits, and the Taliban, saying and doing what- ever it took to save more women's lives, in part because his own mother had died giving birth to him. As a boy, Crane wrote, Issa had slept with her shawl;  as a man,  he still dreamed of her touch. Long before Parveen met him, she'd pitied the motherless boy within,  though this was too personal a topic to broach. It was odd to know more about someone from a book than from what he chose to share, which was almost nothing.

Instead of puckishness, Issa had inert eyes and a dour mouth; his fertile  mustache, black and thick,  was by far the liveliest thing on his face. When they met, he'd grunted a greeting, then scanned her clothing—a red tunic as long and loose  as a dress, a pair of jeans, and a navy-blue head scarf—as if it were a puzzle he couldn't solve. Eyeing her three suitcases, he'd said, "Village women dress very simply." Men usually responded to, if not her beauty, a  sensuality she'd been told  she possessed—abundant dark hair, lively dark eyes, a lush mouth. From Issa there wasn't a flicker.

She tried to see if Fawad  was as nervous as she was, but she was directly behind him. This was his first trip of any distance from Kabul, and he'd come along reluctantly, at the insistence of his father, Parveen's uncle, having been told that upon depositing Parveen with her village hosts, he could return home right away. He wore a leather jacket, fake designer jeans, and fancy loafers, a getup she found faintly amusing for a trip to rural Afghanistan. He'd texted compulsively for a time after they left Kabul but had now given up. The mountains had swallowed the signal.

Just then, as  if  the sun had breached a  dam, light  flooded the canyon, painting the river emerald and turning the strip of sky fiery orange and violent pink. A pair of birds crossed their path and flew along the canyon, their shadows trailing  in the warm yellow light on the opposing cliff wall. Parveen, her vision aflame, was alarmed, for the lowering sun meant they might not reach the village before dark.

As quickly as it had come, the color was gone. Twilight seeped in, its violet-blue ethereal, elusive, and soon snuffed by night. She'd never seen darkness so thick or a driver so tense. The Land Cruiser's headlights barely pierced the night. Issa switched off the music, although her ears continued ringing with it. He was gripping the steering wheel, and in the dim glow of the dials, his knuckles looked slug-white. He and Fawad weren't talking, and the silence scared her.

The river, the whole world outside the car, had vanished. The road, what she could glean of it in the headlights, narrowed fur- ther. Their pace slowed. She felt both terrified and stupid to have taken such a risk with her life, and yet contemplating the possibility  of her death made her feel thrillingly alive. She checked her watch, its light flashing in the blackness. It was twenty-five kilometers from the highway to the village, according to Issa, but they'd been traveling for more than two hours with no markers of distance, no road signs of any kind. She'd begun to doubt the very existence of the village when a white building flared in the headlights and disappeared.

"Dr.  Gideon's clinic," Issa barked.

"Fereshta's clinic," she reminded him with some force, twisting back to look for what she could no longer see. Gideon Crane was adamant in his memoir that the clinic he built  be named for Fereshta, the woman whose death had inspired its creation. Issa was one of Crane's top lieutenants—he had to know that. "It didn't look open," she said. In her imagination, the clinic had been brightly lit and bustling twenty-four hours a day. A beacon. Not that still, sealed building with the darkness closing in.

Excerpted from A Door in the Earth by Amy Waldman. Copyright © 2019 by Amy Waldman. Excerpted by permission of Little Brown & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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