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"Hamilton’s descriptions are vivid, especially when portraying the tension and uncertainty that families of political prisoners endure. Fans of topical fiction will appreciate this knowledgeable and nuanced view of the Afghan war."
“Journalist-turned-novelist Masha Hamilton has produced a new novel in her trademark vein, with harrowing crisis, conflict and dilemma, and deep psychological probing of self.”
—THE WASHINGTON INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF BOOKS
“Every once in a while, a book comes along that makes you want to wrest even your own work from readers’ hands and command that they instead read this. Masha Hamilton’s What Changes Everything is that kind of amazing.”
“Intensely gripping and beautifully written, What Changes Everything shows the lengths we will go to to save each other and ourselves. A stunning collage of loss, grief, love, and most of all, survival, Hamilton’s characters and their stories are richly drawn and achingly real.”
—Jillian Cantor, author of Margot
“Quite simply stunning. Every once in a while, a book comes along that makes you want to wrest even your own work from readers’ hands and command that they instead read this. Masha Hamilton’s What Changes Everything is that kind of amazing. Hamilton knows the surreal world that is present day Afghanistan firsthand, and she delivers the grief and love that world spills into our own with pace, grace, and—perhaps most surprisingly—humor. I held my breath through a kidnapping, and at women stepping beyond the boundaries allowed them, into the kind of danger that is necessary for change. I fell in love, improbably, with an Afghani aide-turned-negotiator and an American wielding spray paint in dark places on dark nights. I at turns laughed and cried at a mother’s attempts, through letters, to gain her son’s death the attention it deserves. In the end, I felt I understood some truth I had not brought with me to the book, and I felt uplifted, and hopeful that writing like this might, in fact, be a step toward changing everything.”
—Meg Waite Clayton (best-selling author of "The Four Ms. Bradwells", "The Wednesday Sisters", and "The Language of Light")
"What Changes Everything shows us the dance of war in all its heartbreaking details, weaving into the most secret places in the human heart. Her story shows what we lose in war, and how we get to the other side of survival. Masha Hamilton is such a gifted writer."
—Laura Fitzgerald, author of Dreaming in English
“As real and immediate as a racing pulse, Hamilton's dark jewel of a novel turns the political into the personal with a blazing tapestry of characters, all grappling with the terrifying cost of war and the unbreakable bonds of love. Thrilling and magnificent.”
—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times best-selling author of Pictures of You
Posted May 2, 2013
Destiny is a saddled ass, my daughters; he goes where you lead him, writes Najibullah in the opening line of Masha Hamilton’s latest novel, What Changes Everything. As the Pashto proverb echoes the Old Testament lesson of Balaam and his donkey, so the inter-related stories echo back and forth from Afghanistan to America, a study in relationships, destiny, and the complexity of choices. The book opens and closes with the lyrical (and fictional) letters of the last president of Afghanistan, Mohammad Najibullah, during the period of Communist control, where we get a glimpse into the impossible choices he made in serving his country.
In between passionate letters he writes to his family, safely settled in India, are the stories of several families impacted by the the war in Afghanistan, and the choices they make to cope with pain, to act with honor, to save their loved ones, and sometimes just to live. It took a few chapters for me to see the relationships between Todd, the American refugee worker in Kabul who is kidnapped while out for his daily ice cream run, and the many other individual dramas. But once the stories began leaking one into another, the fascinating web of inter-connectivity became addictive. I found myself tearing up as Todd’s wife Clarissa, aimlessly roaming the post-midnight streets of NYC, runs into the anguished street artist, Danil, working out the pain of his brother’s death with cans of spray paint on the city’s public walls. Then there’s the unlikely but moving encounter between an American mother and an Afghan hospital administrator in Kabul, their perspectives changed by the viewing of the hospital’s dismal conditions though the other’s eyes. One after another, the intertwining of perspectives takes the reader further into a taste of the complex situation that is the reality of the world’s relationship with Afghanistan today. There are no easy answers, only endless layers of difficult and dangerous decisions to be made.
Masha, the founder of the Afghan Women’s Writing Project (who will receive $1 of every ebook purchase), has done us all a favor by giving us a glimpse into both the struggles and beautiful culture of Afghanistan while forcing us to ponder the nature of free will.