Summary and book reviews of When the Moon Is Low by Nadia Hashimi

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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Book Summary

Mahmoud's passion for his wife Fereiba, a schoolteacher, is greater than any love she's ever known. But their happy, middle-class world—a life of education, work, and comfort—implodes when their country is engulfed in war, and the Taliban rises to power.

In Kabul, we meet Fereiba, a schoolteacher who puts her troubled childhood behind her when she finds love in an arranged marriage. But Fereiba's comfortable life implodes when the Taliban rises to power and her family becomes a target of the new fundamentalist regime. Forced to flee with her three children, Fereiba has one hope for survival: to seek refuge with her sister's family in London.

Traveling with forged papers and depending on the kindness of strangers, Fereiba and the children make a dangerous crossing into Iran under cover of darkness, the start of a harrowing journey that reduces her from a respected wife and mother to a desperate refugee.

Eventually they fall into the shadowy underground network of the undocumented who haunt the streets of Europe's cities. And then, in a busy market square in Athens, their fate takes a frightening turn when Fereiba's teenage son, Saleem, becomes separated from the rest of the family. Without his mother, Saleem is forced, abruptly and unforgivingly, to come of age in a world of human trafficking and squalid refugee camps.

Heartbroken, Fereiba has no choice but to continue on with only her daughter and baby. Mother and son cross border after perilous border, risking their lives in the hope of finding a place where they can be reunited.

Free printable reading guide

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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Introduction

The unforgettable story of an Afghan family's escape from the Taliban and perilous trek across Europe to seek asylum, led by one extraordinarily courageous woman. This is the second novel by Nadia Hashimi, the author of 2014's breakout novel, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Fereiba describes herself as "an outsider in my father's home" as a child, and then becomes a literal outsider as a refugee. What do you think the author is trying to say about being an outsider? Is there anything positive to be gained from having an outsider's perspective and experience? Who are the outsiders in your family or society?
  2. What do you make of KokoGul? Is she the classic "wicked ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The unbelievable love, courage and tenacity of being a refugee as well as the smell of fear is all in this book. Yet, it is somehow hopeful. I learned a great deal about so much and enjoyed this book immensely. Somehow every nation must find a way to welcome and support refugees — they are leaving a hell we can't imagine.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Full Review (631 words).

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Media Reviews

O: The Oprah Magazine
A must-read saga about borders, barriers, and the resolve of one courageous mother fighting to cross over.

Booklist
With grace and sensitivity, Hashimi illuminates the harrowing odysseys and numerous dangers refugees contend with in their quest for a safe haven.

Library Journal
Expertly depicting the anxiety and excitement that accompanies a new life, Hashimi's gripping page-turner is perfect for book clubs.

Reader Reviews

Jennifer K. (Camden, SC)

Such a timely book!
Our book club picked Nadia Hashimi's first novel, The Pearl that Broke its Shell, so I was eager to read her next novel. She doesn't disappoint! Hashimi's evocative prose brings to life the story of a refugee family fleeing persecution and looking ...   Read More

Rebecca L. (Torrington, CT)

Great book - definitely a must read!
I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book is mostly about Fereiba and her family. The book starts out when she is born and tells the story of her life living in Kabul, Afghanistan. Her childhood is ...   Read More

Sandy F. (Davis, CA)

In our time, a must read!
With refugees and migrants struggling to escape misery and death, this book captures the reality of what that means in a way that gets under your skin and into your heart. Nadia Hashimi's book starts out a bit slow but soon becomes one you won't put...   Read More

Rebecca H. (Bolton, CT)

When the Moon is Low
A luminous novel about the toll on a family of becoming refugees, When the Moon is Low is the second novel by Nadia Hashimi, author of The Pearl That Broke Its Shell. The story alternates between the viewpoints of Fereiba, a young Afghan widow, and ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Afghan Women's Writing Project

When the Moon is Low has Fereiba narrate much of the action as she flees Afghanistan, along with her children, for refuge in England. While Fereiba's story is one of escape, there are countless women left behind who must endure daily life in a country where the Taliban's extremely stifling laws leave a suffocating footprint.

The Afghan Women's Writing Project (AWWP) was founded in 2009 as an outlet for the country's women to share their stories and experiences. In November of 1999, Zarmeena, an Afghan mother of seven was executed by the Taliban in Kabul's Ghazi stadium as punishment for having killed her husband. A video of that outrageous act made its way to the founder of AWWP, Masha Hamilton, who became convinced that Zarmeena's story...

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