Zeba is a loving mother, a gentle and attentive wife, and a woman who treats the world with kindness. One terrible afternoon Kamal, Zeba’s husband, is found dead in the corner of their yard. He has a hatchet planted in his head. Zeba is sitting next to him with blood on her hands. She is in shock and cannot remember what happened. Her family believes her to be innocent, but no one else seems to agree, especially Kamal’s family.
The prison, which becomes Zeba’s new home, is filled with women who have been locked up for committing crimes of immoral conduct, like running away from home. The general attitude of the women is one of hopelessness. Something unusual happens to inspire the ladies to develop a mutual concern for one another, a sisterhood.
Everyone involved in her case thinks that she should just plead guilty and beg the court for leniency. The parallel story is about the one person who wants her to fight, who makes it his mission to bring justice to Afghanistan, beginning with Zeba.
This is an exceptional story, told with sensitivity and skill. I found myself caring deeply about the Zeba, her family, the women in prison, and the dilemma of women anywhere where they do not fully matter.
As in other novels by Hashimi, this story is mixed with tragedy, traditional culture in Afghanistan, and heroic support leading to otherwise unlikely solutions.— Nancy Nelson
September 2016 Indie Next List
“Hashimi sets her layered and suspenseful novel at the crossroads of tradition and modernity in present-day Afghanistan. Her nuanced and well-paced tale tells the story of Zeba, who is accused of murdering her husband. In the Chil Mahtab prison, where Zeba awaits her trial and sentencing, she comes to know a colorful cast of female inmates, many of whom are ordinary women who have been snared in various traps of family honor and have been cast away by their families and by society. This is a compassionately written and moving page-turner.”
— Marya Johnston, Out West Books, Grand Junction, CO
A vivid, unforgettable story of an unlikely sisterhood—an emotionally powerful and haunting tale of friendship that illuminates the plight of women in a traditional culture—from the author of the bestselling The Pearl That Broke Its Shell and When the Moon Is Low.
For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered with a hatchet in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Her children swear their mother could not have committed such a heinous act. Kamal’s family is sure she did, and demands justice.
Barely escaping a vengeful mob, Zeba is arrested and jailed. As Zeba awaits trial, she meets a group of women whose own misfortunes have also led them to these bleak cells: thirty-year-old Nafisa, imprisoned to protect her from an honor killing; twenty-five-year-old Latifa, who ran away from home with her teenage sister but now stays in the prison because it is safe shelter; and nineteen-year-old Mezhgan, pregnant and unmarried, waiting for her lover’s family to ask for her hand in marriage. Is Zeba a cold-blooded killer, these young women wonder, or has she been imprisoned, as they have been, for breaking some social rule? For these women, the prison is both a haven and a punishment. Removed from the harsh and unforgiving world outside, they form a lively and indelible sisterhood.
Into this closed world comes Yusuf, Zeba’s Afghan-born, American-raised lawyer, whose commitment to human rights and desire to help his motherland have brought him back. With the fate of this seemingly ordinary housewife in his hands, Yusuf discovers that, like Afghanistan itself, his client may not be at all what he imagines.
A moving look at the lives of modern Afghan women, A House Without Windows is astonishing, frightening, and triumphant.
About the Author
Nadia Hashimi was born and raised in New York and New Jersey. Both her parents were born in Afghanistan and left in the early 1970s, before the Soviet invasion. In 2002, Nadia made her first trip to Afghanistan with her parents. She is a pediatrician and lives with her family in the Washington, DC, suburbs. She is the author of three books for adults, as well as the middle grade novels One Half from the East and The Sky at Our Feet. Visit her online at www.nadiahashimi.com.