Today the extract is from No More Mulberries by Mary Smith a novel of drama and adventure set in Afghanistan – I can highly recommend the book and it is on offer at 99p/99c until 18th May.
No More Mulberries is a story of commitment and divided loyalties, of love and loss, set against a country struggling through transition.
British-born Miriam’s marriage to her Afghan doctor husband is heading towards crisis. Despite his opposition, she goes to work as a translator at a medical teaching camp in a remote area of rural Afghanistan hoping time apart will help are see where their problems lie. She comes to realise how unresolved issues from when her first husband was killed by a mujahideen group are damaging her relationship with her husband and her son – but is it already too late to save her marriage?
And extract from No More Mulberries – Chapter One
Iqbal was being ridiculous but if she was going to persuade him to change his mind, she must stay calm. She really didn’t want it to turn into a major row. She took a deep breath, which ended on a yawn. Too tired for one thing.
Maybe she should agree to Iqbal’s suggestion and employ a girl from the village to help with the housework? She’d always refused, telling him she’d feel uncomfortable having someone working in the house. She didn’t admit to him she hated the idea of people thinking the foreign wife needed help to run her home, couldn’t cope with hard work. Bad enough they knew she couldn’t spin wool – or milk a goat.
That bloody-minded animal, feeling her first tentative touch, had looked knowingly over its shoulder at her with its nasty, wrong-way-round eyes and walked away. Tightening her grip only made the goat go faster, forcing her into an idiotic crouching run, while her friend
Usma, in between shouts of laughter yelled at her to let go. When she did, falling over in a heap on the stony ground, the pain of her scraped knees had been nothing compared to the hurt to her dignity and pride. For weeks after everyone asked her if she’d milked any more goats. The day she could join in the laughter at the episode had not yet arrived.
She sighed and looked upwards. Familiarity with Afghanistan’s night skies never lessened her sense of awe. On moonless nights the Milky Way was a magical white path through stars that didn’t twinkle – they blazed. Constellations her father had taught her to recognise when she was a child – Orion, the Plough, the Seven Sisters – demonstrated proudly that here, they possessed far more jewel-bright stars than she had ever seen in Scotland. Tonight, though, the moon, almost full, had risen, dimming the stars’ brightness, silvering the jagged peaks of the mountains that kept the valley safe.
‘Our moon,’ she whispered. ‘Oh, Jawad, what have I done?’
‘Miriam?’ She jumped at the sound of Iqbal’s voice close behind her. Had he heard her whisper?
She turned to face him relieved to see he was smiling. ‘Children ready for bed?’ she asked. ‘I’ll go say goodnight to them.’
He shook his head, coming to stand next to her, saying softly, ‘Ruckshana’s already asleep. Farid is learning his spelling words for tomorrow.’ He reached for her hand. ‘Miriam, look, I suppose I should have mentioned it to you – cancelling the boys’ lessons.’
‘Mentioned it?’ She snatched her hand away, the need for calm forgotten. Tilting her head to look up at him, she asked, ‘What about discussing it with me?’
One of the over 200 reviews for the book
No More Mulberries is an international contemporary drama written by Mary Smith and published in 2009. The story focuses on Miriam, a Scottish midwife, who has married two men from Afghanistan during her lifetime. The tale unfolds by jumping time frames across different chapters to share the reasons why Miriam’s life has become what it is today. At times, her days have been heartbreaking, and at others, they have been an admirable source of strength. I chose this book because I’d seen many positive reviews and it fit the parameters for my month of international and/or autobiographical reads. Let’s chat more about this complex and wonderful story…
Miriam had a wonderful husband and life, but he passed away. She had a young son to raise in Afghanistan during a difficult period in the country’s history, especially for a red-haired Scottish woman with strong beliefs about how things should be. Knowledgeable in medicine, she won over some of the village, yet she always knew she was viewed differently. Then, she remarried and had another child with the second husband. At first, they had a strong love. Although she’d converted to Muslim, her husband, Iqbal was careful to find a balance between his beliefs and her beliefs. While he could be strict, he was by no means radical or excessively controlling of his wife. As tension rises between them, Miriam revisits her past to understand why her first husband died. Through the process, her eyes are opened about her own blame in the new marriage as well as as what truly happened to her first beloved.
The story is rich with a supporting cast who provide laughter, love, fear, and pain. Smith eloquently shares a culture and a lifestyle with her audience, some who may know little about the Muslim faith or Afghani culture. While I’ve read a few other books focusing on this part of the world, they tended to stick to the religious aspects of the Middle East rather than the social aspects. I was glad to experience a different side of the life through this story and the author’s wonderful ability to showcase both the good and the bad.
Questions of parenting, forgiveness, pain, tolerance, and curiosity quickly enter a reader’s mind. What will become of someone who defies her husband? Who will stand by you when you have no one else to trust? How do you ensure the village listens to your advice on bearing a child when the culture dictates the complete opposite solution? This novel helped me understand a different mindset, and while it wasn’t necessarily one I agree with or support, I found a balance of alternative ideas and options to push me to think more critically. It’s a great experience, and one we should all have when reading a book about something different than our own knowledge.
A great find, and something that would be a benefit for all readers with an open mind, a curiosity about life outside their own culture, and a small glimpse into the world that many know from the outside but little know from the inside.
Read the reviews and buy the book for only 99c: Amazon US
And for 99p: Amazon UK
Selection of other books by Mary Smith
Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon UK
And: Amazon US
Read more reviews and follow Mary: Goodreads
About Mary Smith
Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She wanted others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.
Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan
Connect to Mary
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