No More Mulberries
Spanning the turbulent time period from the Soviet occupation to the rise of Taliban, is set in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan where British-born Miriam finds her relationship with her Afghan husband, Dr Iqbal heading towards crisis.
From the opening chapters we are drawn into Miriam’s family life, circle of friends and her medical work with the women of the village. It is a life in which she is clearly at home; however, the problems in her marriage – its silences and evasions – unsettle Miriam’s equilibrium. To understand the reasons behind – and resolving – these personal conflicts, involves a journey into her own past to confront the devastating loss of her first husband.
Although the story is told principally from Miriam’s point of view, it is also Iqbal’s story. He, too, has suppressed insecurities – about his own losses, about how the leprosy he contracted as a child continues to impact on his life, and about the cultural restrictions he despises yet unwittingly reinforces.
No More Mulberries is about commitment and divided loyalties. It is also a story of isolation, learning to live with loss and grief
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( Over 80 reviews on Amazon.com)
By Bodicia on March 26, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
Miriam is a midwife and left her native Scotland to marry an Afghan after waiting a year to seek approval from his parents. Their love prevailed and they had a son, Farid, together. When Miriam goes back to Scotland to visit her father she receives the devastating news her husband, Jawad, has died. She can’t go back as a single woman but Afghanistan is the home of her heart and she wants to help its people. When she meets an Afghan doctor, Iqbal, who needs a wife she finds herself thinking that the ways of an arranged marriage with common interests and goals at its core isn’t such a bad way to start a marriage. She also wants her son to know his homeland and so she marries her doctor and they set off on a new life where she looks forward to helping him run his clinic in his poor village. However, customs, traditions and culture can not be so easily ignored. Even though they have a daughter, Ruckshana, together, and he seemed to be less inclined to follow strict Islamic traditions when they met, once he is surrounded by rural life again saving face becomes his priority. Or so she thinks. Iqbal’s own past and fears catch up with him and, in the shadow of Jawad’s ghost, he falters.
This novel is chock full of Afghanistan culture and is an absolutely brilliant read. It really is hard to believe this is a debut novel. Educational as well as entertaining from a fictional point of view, Mary Smith shares her unique perspective on the politics, culture and people of Afghanistan brought about by her years working in the area. The sights and sounds of the country come alive in this tale and I was engrossed from the start. This is a book which makes you think and also, if you look deeper, gives you answers to questions we ask when faced with a culture which is so different to our own. Mary Smith brought the country of Afghanistan alive for me in a way no news article could ever do.
By Beeshon on February 1, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
There are many words to describe this novel: poignant, charming, sad, original, thought-provoking. It certainly is all of these things.
Its setting is quite different from anything I’ve read before and in a culture worlds away from my own.
Miriam is a young woman who leaves her native Scotland for married life in Afghanistan. After her husband’s (Jawad) tragic death and with a young son to look after, she marries her second husband, Iqbal. Jawad’s memory and Iqbal’s own inner conflict rock her marriage from its foundations, and Miriam has to fight to save it.
Whilst I can’t imagine why Miriam would abandon her modern life in Scotland for one of such basicness in an Afghan village is beyond me (even for love). It’s a very stark contrast, but that in itself is what makes Miriam such a strong character. Despite the cultural differences, despite the death of her first husband, despite the Islamic constraints, despite the attitude towards women, despite her second husband’s own troubles, she is resolute and determined to make her life and her commitment to her new surroundings work. I like her persistence and her honesty.
The 1990s Afghan conflict is stranded through the story, and Afghan life and culture brought vividly to our attention. I concluded that it’s really not very desirable: I’m quite happy with my own flushing toilets, running water, and my own bedroom, thank you. BUT, if it as bleak as the author portrays, it was an interesting, if somewhat distressing, insight.
Although I would have preferred a slightly more assertive ending, I enjoyed this unusual story. I would also have liked to read this after some professional editing to trim some frayed edges. Despite that, it’s a recommended read.
By Lornwal on October 16, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A fascinating, fiercely emotional novel written with vivid detail and immense feeling and insight, NO MORE MULBERRIES, by gifted Scottish author Mary Smith, is the story of Miriam, an ex-pat Scot making a new life as a midwife in Afghanistan. Set in the mid-90s, shortly before the Taliban established its brutal regime, the story follows Miriam as she struggles not only with cultural challenges and the loss of personal freedom, but also with the challenges of motherhood, widowhood, and a disappointing second marriage.
Despite Miriam’s affinity for the Afghan people and the religion of Islam, she has a great deal of trouble accepting the loss of her freedom and value, both physical and intellectual. Ignorance, oppression of women, and superstition endemic to small rural villages like Miriam’s are frustrating and disheartening. She knows change cannot come quickly, but that understanding does little to help her cope with resistance to science, education, and the value of women. When Miriam becomes so unhappy that she cannot see the struggles of others in her family, especially her conflicted and secretive second husband, her marriage and livelihood are put at great risk.
NO MORE MULBERRIES is so gripping, and the story and characters so interesting and relatable, that I was immediately drawn in. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough as the drama and emotion escalated. Ms. Smith gives readers clear-eyed insight into what Afghans love about their country, but also into the extreme and frightening aspects of Afghanistan’s culture, politics, and unrest. Miriam is not the only character who chafes under the oppression of entrenched tradition; her husband, a native Afghan, is desperate to keep his fear and heartache from showing.Read more ›