No More Mulberries

No More Mulberries

by Mary Smith


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Set in Afghanistan, British-born Miriam finds her marriage to her Afghan doctor husband heading towards crisis. She has to journey into her past to understand how unresolved issues are damaging her relationship. It is a story of commitment and divided loyalties, of love and loss, set against a country struggling through transition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781849234207
Publication date: 03/01/2009
Pages: 260
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.59(d)

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No More Mulberries 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
jeanniezelos More than 1 year ago
No More Mulberries, Mary Smith Genre: women’s fiction Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews Sometimes I like to read something very different from my usual. Its good to get out of the comfort zone, and means I come back to genres I usually read with fresh eyes. I do like books which give an insight into foreign cultures so was pleased to be asked to review this one. Scots born Margaret meets Zawad, and they marry and return to his homeland. They’re very happy and have a son together. Then he is killed. Margaret is devastated but slowly her friends persuade her to date Iqbal, and they find they have much in common. Iqbal had leprosy as a young child and his home village is very traditional, he suffered greatly until he was cured as an adult. Back home though he still has the stigma of the disease, and he wants to return but fears they won’t respect him as a doctor because of it. Margaret has come to feel dearly for him, wants to stay in Afghanistan and suggests they marry. A foreign wife will enhance his status too. They have grown very close, and she plans to work with him, as she did with her first husband. She’s now become Muslim and is called Miriam, and they have a child together. He’s changed though from the man she first knew, his village is far from the progressive place they met, and keeping face is incredibly important. Miriam tries hard to fit in but his restrictions, such as not letting her teach a couple of the young village boys because is affects his reputation, not letting her work with him in the clinic she thought they’d share, and the fact they really only see each other at night now has disheartened her. It’s not the shared, working partnership she’d envisaged and makes her feel they are slowly growing apart. She can’t help comparing to her first marriage and I wondered how they could find a way back to where they were when they first got together. The gulf seemed huge, with the village being very rural and old fashioned and Miriam trying so hard to fit in, to be the wife Iqbal wants and yet she feels she’s failing. Her first husbands family ask to take their grandson for an extended visit, which leaves her free to take an assignment offered to her by the foreign doctor who runs all the clinics. Iqbal isn’t happy, sees her going as disrespecting him. I got the feeling by now that he cared more for his reputation than for Miriam's happiness, or their marriage. Perhaps I was judging him unfairly – I was looking at things from the eyes of Scots born Miriam, who’d adapted a lot, but still couldn’t understand the tiny nuances of cause and effect that cover every action in a small rural village. Later in the book when they talk and Iqbal explains things from his POV I understood him and his actions so much better. Miriam learns a lot about herself while she’s away, meets people who knew her first husband and who were with him when he was killed. She is surprised and upset at many things they say, but slowly looks at her own behaviour. She comes to realise she’s looked at her first husband and compared him to Iqbal unfairly. He wasn’t perfect, they did argue, and somehow after his death she’d forgotten that. It makes her realise how unfair she’s been to Iqbal. Its a common fault though – we see so often that after death some people become viewed only for the good they did, and the not so great side we all have gets forgotten. By now though Iqbal’s brother has died, and tradition means he can marry his brothers wife, though of course he doesn’t have to. She’s his childhood sweetheart though, who his parents wouldn’t let him marry because of his leprosy....has Miriam left it too late to talk to Iqbal, can they find their way back to the couple who were so close and shared so many ideals, or will he give up and just take on a second wife, who understands all the village traditions, and won’t feel constricted by them. Alongside the romance, and the problems its been great to read of the day to day life, how it varies so much from here in the West, and how ignorant and arrogant some of the Western doctors were, who were supposed to be educating and helping the Afghans. I was ashamed at some of the things they said, and yet I’m sure that’s a very real problem.Sometimes its just lack of understanding, an ignorance that’s unintended, but there’s too often a perception that the education we have in the West makes us somehow “better” than the uneducated populace of the rural villages. To help them we need to understand why they act or believe what they do – Miriam tried to do that but some of the others were so condescending I wondered why they bothered going there.... Stars: Four, a very interesting read. I did find at times I was puzzled by jumping from one place or time to another, and the ending seemed a little rushed and incomplete to me given how in depth some of the problems were, but I really enjoyed looking at the cultural differences. ARC provided by Netgalley and publishers.
Sheri-A-Wilkinson More than 1 year ago
No More Mulberries by Mary Smith Set in rural Afghanistan, Miriam is married to an Afghan Doctor. She takes a job as a translator at a medical teaching camp. Her husband is not happy about her decision. British Born Miriam is trying to adapt to her new home, is haunted by her past, and still holding onto fond memories of her late husband. With troubles in her current marriage Miriam is at a cross-roads in her life. She must do some soul searching and make some tough decisions if she wants to save her marriage. A well written story of love, loss, devotion, divided loyalties, redemption and hope. Miriam is a nice  woman, but her feeling for her late husband interfere with her current life. She is flawed and torn, which makes her human and real. I like that in the story. Miriam and her husband both have secrets, secrets that neither want to face, but must to keep their marriage together. The Afghanistan setting makes for an interesting read, seeing how a different culture/country (from my own) live. Set in the 1990's also adds to the intense drama as the approaching conflict with the Taliban reaches Afghanistan. Overall I found No More Mulberries to be heart-felt, dramatic, and very memorable. I strongly recommend to those who like (emotional) dramatic/love-story. Fantastic.
WallyR More than 1 year ago
Mary Smith has penned an evocative and pictorial account of the everyday married life of a Scotswoman, Margaret (who renames herself Miriam), in rural Afghanistan and in NGO hospitals, during 1986-87 following the Soviet withdrawal, and again in 1995-96 just prior to the Taliban insurrection; there are also flashbacks to her middle-class existence as a young nurse in Edinburgh. While "No More Mulberries" is a medium size novel (254 pages), it can be read in one sitting and the experience would be like that of having watched an emotionally charged and soul searching movie, which leaves us pondering about the lives and the fate of the unfortunate people in Afghanistan. It will make us wonder what if anything can be done to improve their situation. The novel opens-just as a Hollywood director would begin his movie-with a little Afghani girl running barefoot across a dusty courtyard, scattering the pecking chickens, and shouting, "Daddy's home!" The camera then swings towards a woman hunkered in the shade of a mulberry tree. From her attire she would seem to be Afghani, but when she looks up-from the pile of rice she is picking over and the pieces of chicken and salad she's preparing for dinner-the close-up reveals her smiling face with distinctive Scottish features. While the girl's father lifts the child up and throws her into the air, to squeals of her mock terror, the camera slowly enlarges to a wide angle view of the adobe type dwellings on the side of the rocky mountain and a panoramic vista of the village. We would see the white jeep with hospital markings parked in a small area below and the steep path the doctor would have walked up. Back in the compound, a little boy emerges from the kitchen carrying a glass of water and hands it without a word to the man. The doctor merely nods an acknowledgement. Herein lies the skill of the author, where the details of the surroundings, characters' introduction and the conflict are artistically blended into the story. The novel continues on with attention-grabbing scenes, one after another. The developing tensions between Miriam and her husband, Doctor Iqbal, are hinted at when he announces that he has cancelled the two young boys' English lesson classes that Miriam had been holding at home. Iqbal's explanation being: "People will talk . are young boys in Scotland not thinking about sex?" to which the astonished wife retorts, "Oh, for goodness sake, yes, of course. Think about it, talk about it, fantasise about it - but not about doing it with a woman who's nearly forty, the mother of two children." The husband narrows his eyes and coolly responds, "The subject is closed." The author has captured the characters' dialogues brilliantly, throughout the book. The novel ends in the style of a typical Hollywood movie. While some of the viewers leaving the theatre (or readers closing the book) might be dabbing their eyes, with handkerchiefs, most would have smiles on their faces. Most of the enjoyment of the reading would be in the finer points of Afghani life that Mary Smith has adroitly captured, no doubt from her first hand experiences while serving in that region as a medical aid worker. A highly recommended novel and a story that many would be wishing to read a sequel to. Reviewed by Waheed Rabbani. Author of "Doctor Margaret's Sea Chest," available at Barnes and Noble.