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A House without Windows

A House without Windows

5.0 2
by Nadia Hashimi

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In her third novel, following When the Moon Is Low and The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, best-selling author Hashimi delivers another moving portrayal of life in contemporary Afghanistan. Zeba, a devoted mother of four, is arrested after her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered in the courtyard of their home. While Zeba's children don't believe their mother would commit such a crime, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of the murder—and Kamal's family demands justice. Chapters alternate between Zeba's lonely childhood after her father disappeared and her difficult years as a young bride with the personal plight of Yusef, an inexperienced lawyer born in Afghanistan, raised in Queens, and viewed as an outsider by a town suspicious of strangers. As in her previous books, Hashimi creates compelling minor characters in cellmates Latifa, Nafisa, and Mezghan, who become a makeshift family as word of Zeba's jadu, or magic, spreads throughout the prison. Meanwhile, Yusef is committed to make a difference in a country he used to call home, even if he can barely recognize that home anymore. VERDICT With elements of love, anger, and sheer optimism, Hashimi's latest is sure to engross those who enjoyed her previous novels and attract new readers as well. [See Prepub Alert, 2/21/16.]—Stephanie Sendaula, Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews
When she's found with her murdered husband's blood on her hands, Zeba is almost strangled by his outraged cousin. She's rescued only to land in jail, accused of killing her husband.Life in Chil Mahtab, an Afghan women’s prison, is an eye-opening experience for the shy mother of four. Once Zeba overcomes the shock of Kamal’s last moments and resigns herself to her new home, she discovers the incredible stories that have sent so many unfortunate women to its overcrowded cells. From runaway girls to betrayed mothers, each tells a tale of family honor used as a weapon against her, leaving prison a safe haven indeed. Zeba draws upon the spells her own mother, Gulnaz—who was often ostracized as a sorceress despite having a powerful spiritual leader for a father—taught her to help as many women as she can. Luckily, Zeba’s bother has hired Yusuef, a young lawyer, to represent her. Yet Zeba’s refusal to help in her own defense, her determination to face execution for a crime she may not have committed, maddens Yusuef and raises disturbing questions: what could have driven her to impale a hatchet in Kamal’s head? Could she be protecting the real killer? As Yusuef investigates, Kamal’s secrets come to light and Zeba’s courage begins to extend to surprising lengths. Hashimi (When the Moon is Low, 2015, etc.) mercilessly exposes the savage crimes against women committed in the name of honor. Yet Zeba’s fate lies caught between her presumed guilt and Kamal’s own dark secrets. As Hashimi slowly unveils the horror Zeba faced the day of his death, she masterfully builds tension, torquing sympathies to heart-wrenching levels. Unfortunately, the happy ending falls a bit flat, as the tale of human rights abuses fizzles out. A powerful, if flawed, portrait of an honorable woman living amid dishonorable men.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.60(d)

Meet 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. Visit her online at www.nadiahashimi.com

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A House Without Windows: A Novel 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
gaele More than 1 year ago
Lyrical Prose with emotionally compelling stories combine to bring forth a story that is difficult to forget - a must read favorite. Part of feeding my own curiosity is reading stories about and by people who will bring a new perspective and outlook to my eyes. Modern day Afghanistan is one that westerners know as rife with terror, sublimated and subjugated women, and often barbaric retributions. What I had to keep reminding myself while reading this story was the juxtaposition between those who are raised in the culture and have a sense of the expectations with my own, and one of the MC’s outlook that is decidedly more western in approach. Having read and LOVED The Pearl that Broke it’s Shell, Nadia Hashimi presents her stories without shutters or blinders, each moment feeling as if you are present to witness the moments. In this story, we have Zeba in the midst of a crisis. Her husband of twenty years is found dead, the murder weapon nearby. Unable to process the moment and the shock to her system, she’s unable to provide her own alibi, even to the few willing to hear it. Her husband’s family is convinced she murdered him, and the quick rush to judgment of her guilt in a society that is quick to judge and punish women for any number of, to our eyes, minor offenses, is horrific. Enter Yusuf, an Afghani lawyer raised and educated in the US. His own determination to bring his homeland to a more modern outlook, particularly in regards to human rights for all, particularly women. He’s thinking that while not easy, defending Zeba will be reasonably easy once he explains himself and shows her another way. What emerges is a quiet revolution: Zeba is adopted into an unlikely sisterhood where the women, free from societal censure and retributions of the moment, are sharing stories, dreams and hopes. The stories are hard to read, and while outcomes are tragic, the apparent acquiescence of these women, accepting their lot in life is far less than expected. Zeba is far more than a simple country housewife, she’s a force with an inner core of strength that allows her to survive and persevere in some unthinkable conditions. Lyrical prose and compelling stories take the edge off a difficult read, one that required many breaks for some of the conditions and life stories are harsh, bordering on barbaric. But, even in the breaks, I couldn’t walk away or stop thinking about the moments, the integral connections to the tribal laws and fundamentalist beliefs that feel foreign, if not completely unknowable. A wonderful book, well worth your time and effort. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Two2dogs 5 months ago
I loved this story, I am always interested in other cultures around the World, we learn so much when we enjoy reading a good book, I've read Nadia Hashimi's other two books & loved them too.