Monday, February 10, 2014

For The Love of a Son by Jean Sasson

For The Love of a Son
Jean Sasson
Random House, 2010
292p but I read the ebook

Reading Challenge
100+ Challenge

About The Book
From the time she was a little girl, Maryam rebelled against the terrible second-class existence that was her destiny as an Afghan woman.She had witnessed the miserable fate of her grandmother and three aunts, and wished she had been born a boy. As a feisty teenager in Kabul, she was outraged when the Russians invaded her country. After she made a public show of defiance, she had to flee the country for her life.A new life of freedom seemed within her grasp,but her father arranged a traditional marriage to a fellow Afghan, who turned out to be a violent man. Beaten, raped and abused, Maryam found joy in the birth of a baby son. But then her brutal husband stole him away far beyond his mother's reach. For many long years she searched for her lost son, while civil war and Taliban oppression raged back home in Afghanistan. (From Random House website)

My Thoughts
This was the first selection of the Wednesday book group I run at work. It is non-fiction which is a bit of a departure for the group. I worried a bit about the subject matter as the discussion could have so easily turned in to a rant. It managed not too, I think... and we did say a couple of times that all religions have their shortfalls and that there are violent and rude people in every culture.

I always find these books a bit hard. I have read a few over the years, especially the ones that get talked about a lot. One reason I read fiction is that, it is fictional and things that happen don't necessarily happen in the "real world". With books like "For The Love of A Son" which are non-fiction, there is no way around the fact that the events actually happen and that people can be really cruel.

This one differs a bit from what I can remember of the other similar books like this I've read, in that there is a lot of Afghanistan's history covered in it. The book starts with Maryam's grandmother who was born either in the late 1800s or early 1900s and finished in about 2007. I really enjoyed reading the history aspects of the book.  

*spoiler alert*
I find reading the people aspects really hard. Especially when from the outside I can see how things could have been different. How could she risk her family's lives again by slashing the tire of a communist car? How could her father who went against tradition when he married now insist that Maryam follow the same tradition he despised? Why didn't she move out of her father's house when he first allowed her husband  to kidnap her son? How could she ever forgive her father and sister for allowing themselves to be charmed by her husband again? Because I think it would be quite a natural reaction to never want to see the people who were instrumental in allowing a child to be kidnapped again. The book doesn't talk about how she managed to forgive either of them. Surely that's an important point? Surely that would help readers understand her actions more?

What was a bit more surprising was that although the name of the book is For The Love Of A Son the son bit is a fleeting part of the book. More than half of the book is about Maryam's grandmother, and father's life and then her childhood. I guess since she didn't have such a wonderful reunion with her son, I can understand why it wasn't the main focus of the book, but perhaps a better title should have been used?

It may sound like I didn't like this book very much. It's hard to say I enjoyed it because it seems wrong in the face of the hardships Maryam faced. I do think this and books like it are important. Not only to bring into the open how women are treated in countries like Afghanistan, but also to help Westerners have an understanding of where people come from.

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