Farishta

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Overview

An American diplomat is forced to confront the devastation of her past when she is assigned to remote northern Afghanistan.

Twenty-one years ago, diplomat Angela Morgan witnessed the death of her husband during the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. Devastated by her loss, she fled back to America, where she hid in the backwaters of the State Department and avoided the high-profile postings that would advance her career. Now, with that career about to dead-end and no true ...

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Overview

An American diplomat is forced to confront the devastation of her past when she is assigned to remote northern Afghanistan.

Twenty-one years ago, diplomat Angela Morgan witnessed the death of her husband during the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. Devastated by her loss, she fled back to America, where she hid in the backwaters of the State Department and avoided the high-profile postings that would advance her career. Now, with that career about to dead-end and no true connections at home, she must take the one assignment available-at a remote British army outpost in northern Afghanistan. Unwelcome among the soldiers and unaccepted by the local government and warlords, Angela has to fight to earn the respect of her colleagues, especially the enigmatic Mark Davies, a British major who is by turns her staunchest ally and her fiercest critic. Frustrated at her inability to contribute to the nation's reconstruction, Angela slips out of camp disguised in a burka to provide aid to the refugees in the war-torn region. She becomes their farishta, or "angel," in the local Dari language-and discovers a new purpose for her life, a way to finally put her grief behind her.

Drawing on the experiences of the author as a diplomat in Afghanistan, Farishta is a deeply moving and fast-paced story of a woman struggling to move beyond a past trauma, and finding a new community, a new love, and a new sense of self in the process.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With its shades of A Bell for Adano, McArdle's debut—winner of the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award—is a quietly devastating novel about an American trying to do good in a foreign land, but finding that best intentions are not always enough to overcome bureaucracy and entrenched folkways. Twenty-two years after her husband was killed and she was injured and lost her unborn baby in the 1983 Beirut embassy bombing, Angela Morgan sees her Foreign Service career at a dead end until she's sent to a remote British army outpost in northern Afghanistan. She finds herself, as an American, at odds with her British counterparts, and, as a woman, at odds with the culture's attitude toward her gender. In the course of secretly trying to help the locals (and gaining the name Farishta—Dari for angel), Angela begins two touching relationship; one with Rahim, her translator, who, at 23, reminds her of the son she never had; the other with Maj. Mark Davies, a handsome British intelligence officer. Events conspire to force Angela to choose between public service and personal happiness. Based on her experiences as a Foreign Service officer in Afghanistan, McArdle writes insightfully about the quagmire in that country and the human cost of war. (June)
Kirkus Reviews

The unvarnished but heartfelt tale of the lone woman stationed with a remote reconstruction team in northern Afghanistan during a year marked by romance, tragedy and solar ovens—winner of the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

Retired American diplomat McArdle's own experience gives authentic flavor to her story of American diplomat Angela (translated as angel or Farishta in the Dari language) Morgan, forced to choose between early retirement and an unappealing 12-month posting to Mazar-i-Sharif in the war zone. Widowed after a bombing in Beirut and still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, 47-year-old Angela is driven by determination and impulsiveness, both of which emerge when defying convention by riding a stallion in public, facing down warlords and moving around without armed guards in dangerous territory. In an episodic narrative, she befriends her translator Rahim and gets embroiled in his forbidden love affair; saves the life of an Afghani child; falls foul of a devious but attractive Russian spy; engages with imprisoned and segregated women; finds a purpose in introducing solar ovens to a population busily denuding its country of trees; and encounters romance again with a younger, starchier man, a British Major who initially disapproves of her presence and activities. Despite the danger and drama, the story's pedestrian tone is accented by a documentary feel and wooden dialogue, although a final sequence of disasters intensifies emotion.

Sincere but earthbound.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594487965
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/2/2011
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia McArdle is a retired American diplomat. During her career, she was posted around the world; she spent a year in northern Afghanistan.

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Interviews & Essays

Excerpt of Essay written for the New York Times

MANY urban Americans idealize "green living" and "slow food." But few realize that one of the most promising models for sustainable living is not to be found on organic farms in the United States, but in Afghanistan. A majority of its 30 million citizens still grow and process most of the food they consume. They are the ultimate locavores.

During the 12 months I spent as a State Department political adviser in northern Afghanistan, I was dismayed to see that instead of building on Afghanistan's traditional, labor-intensive agricultural and construction practices, the United States is using many of its aid dollars to transform this fragile agrarian society into a consumer-oriented, mechanized, fossil-fuel-based economy.

In 2004, the Department of Energy carried out a study of Afghanistan. It revealed abundant renewable energy resources that could be used to build small-scale wind- and solar-powered systems to generate electricity and solar thermal devices for cooking and heating water.

Rather than focus on those resources, the United States government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to build large diesel generators and exploit the country's oil, gas and coal reserves. The drilling of new oil wells may provide unskilled, poorly paid jobs for some locals, but the bulk of the profits will likely flow overseas or into the pockets of a few warlords and government officials.

If donor nations dismiss Afghans' centuries of experience in sustainability and continue to support the exploitation of fossil fuels over renewable energy, future generations of rural Afghans will be forced to watch in frustrated silence as the construction of pipelines, oil rigs and enormous power grids further degrades their fragile and beautiful land while doing little to improve their lives.

And long after American forces have departed, it will be these rural farmers, not Afghanistan's small urban population, who will decide whether to support or reject future insurgencies.

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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

An American diplomat is forced to confront the devastation of her past when she is assigned to remote northern Afghanistan.

Twenty-one years ago, diplomat Angela Morgan witnessed the death of her husband during the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. Devastated by her loss, she fled back to America, where she hid in the backwaters of the State Department and avoided the high-profile postings that would advance her career. Now, with that career about to dead-end and no true connections at home, she must take the one assignment available-at a remote British army outpost in northern Afghanistan. Unwelcome among the soldiers and unaccepted by the local government and warlords, Angela has to fight to earn the respect of her colleagues, especially the enigmatic Mark Davies, a British major who is by turns her staunchest ally and her fiercest critic. Frustrated at her inability to contribute to the nation's reconstruction, Angela slips out of camp disguised in a burka to provide aid to the refugees in the war-torn region. She becomes their farishta, or "angel," in the local Dari language-and discovers a new purpose for her life, a way to finally put her grief behind her.

Drawing on the experiences of the author as a diplomat in Afghanistan, Farishta is a deeply moving and fast-paced story of a woman struggling to move beyond a past trauma, and finding a new community, a new love, and a new sense of self in the process.

ABOUT PATRICIA MCARDLE

Patricia McArdle is a retired American diplomat. During her career, she was posted around the world, including Northern Afghanistan. Visit her website at patriciamcardle.com.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • Afghanistan is an important backdrop and character in Farishta. How do the physical and political landscapes manifest themselves in the narrative? Discuss how the landscape shapes the characters and vice versa.
  • One of the most important moments in the book is when Angela monitors the elections. Do you remember the first time you voted? Think about what it means to vote. How do the people Angela encounters treat this right?
  • At the start of Farishta, Angela looks at photos of her late husband for solace and grounding. What is the function of grief in Angela’s life? In the plot of the novel? How does her time in Afghanistan change her perception of loss? Give examples.
  • Much of the information in this novel was informed by notes that the author took while she was a Foreign Service officer in Afghanistan. Before writing the work, McArdle considered making it a memoir, but ultimately opted to tell the story in fiction. How might the book have been different as a memoir? Discuss the strengths of each form. Discuss the portrayal of female Foreign Service officers in Farishta. What questions would you like to ask McArdle about her own experiences?
  • Love—and the possible loss of it—weaves a consistent thread throughout the narrative. How does the backdrop of war relate to the burgeoning romances readers witness in Farishta? Talk about Nilufer’s and Angela’s paths to love and partnership.
  • During her time in Afghanistan, Angela takes risks and pushes the limits of State Department policies and local culture. Give examples. Compare Angela’s sense of defiance with that of her colleagues in the Foreign Service and that of women and men in Afghani society.
  • “Farishta” means angel in Dari and in Persian. To what extent does Angela act as an angel during her tour in Afghanistan? Which, if any, of her actions are heroic? How else might you classify them? How does placement in Afghanistan affect Angela’s internal life, her external behavior, and her outlook on the future?
  • Compare McArdle’s portrayal of Afghanistan to what you have heard in news reports. What similarities stand out? What differences do you note? How does the medium of fiction change how you feel about what you read?
  • Farishta juxtaposes the lives of American and Afghani women. What clashes—external and internal—arise? How does the novel depict the relationships between American women and Afghani women in the developing world? Discuss the freedoms and restrictions of each group.
  • Burkas and body armor are necessary accoutrements in Afghan society. What role do they play in the action ofFarishta and the day–to–day lives of Angela and other characters? What other symbols are used to represent femininity, womanhood, and feminism?
  • At the end of the novel, Angela is forced to wrangle with another round of intense grief and decision–making. Why do you think McArdle chose to guide her main character through such a staggering chain of events?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 2, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Astounding!

    Too close to home and uncomfortable for some. This book is definitely an eye opener for those of us who are fortunate enough to not have had to endure the pains and sufferings of the less fortunate in third world countries, in particular, women.
    Nicholas D. Kristof also has a lot of similar materials for reference, and further reading. Half the Sky is another recommended read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2010

    Highly Recommended

    Excellent book!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2011

    Could not put this book down Wonderful bok Wonderful book

    From a womans view very good book never heard of solar ovens in country what a great project

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2012

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