Masha Hamilton’s fifth novel, What Changes Everything, is truly an American story: an exploration of our twisted, misguided, generous relationship with an enigmatic country Afghanistan. It is the story of Clarissa, who in a gamble to save her kidnapped husband’s life makes the best decisions she can in the dark nights of Brooklyn, boldly rejecting the advice of U.S. authorities. It is also the story of Stela, who owns a used bookstore in Ohio and writes letter after letter in hopes of comprehending the loss of a son on an Afghan battlefield. And it's the stories of Mandy, the mother of a gravely wounded soldier from Texas, Danil, an angry Brooklyn street artist, and Todd, a career aid worker who for a moment let down his guard in a Kabul marketplace. At the same time, What Changes Everything tells the stories of two Afghans: Najibullah, the former president of Afghanistan during the Communist era, and Amin a fictional character, unlike Najib who as a boy tried to save Najibullah and failed, and who now risks his own life in a driven effort to help Todd.
|Edition description:||First Trade Paper Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Masha Hamilton is the author of four acclaimed novels, most recently 31 Hours, which The Washington Post called one of the best novels of 2009, and independent bookstores named an Indiebound Indie Next List choice.
She also founded two world literacy projects, the Camel Book Drive and the Afghan Women's Writing Project.
She is the winner of the 2010 Women's National Book Association award, presented "to a living American woman who derives part or all of her income from books and allied arts, and who has done meritorious work in the world of books beyond the duties or responsibilities of her profession or occupation."
She began her career as a full-time journalist, working in Maine, Indiana, and New York City before being sent by the Associated Press to the Middle East where she was news editor for five years, including the period of the first intifada. She then moved to Moscow where she worked for five years during the collapse of Communism, reporting for the Los Angeles Times and NBC-Mutual Radio and writing a monthly column, "Postcards from Moscow." She also reported from Kenya in 2006, and from Afghanistan in 2004 and 2008.
A Brown University graduate, Hamilton has been awarded fiction fellowships from Yaddo, Blue Mountain Center, Squaw Valley Community of Writers and the Arizona Commission on the Arts. She has taught for Gotham Writers Workshop and the 92nd Street Y in New York City and at a number of writers' workshops around the country. She has also taught in Afghanistan at Kabul University.
She is currently the director of communications and public diplomacy for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.