I’m drawn to the stories of women, of mothers.
But let’s backtrack for a minute.
When I was a kid, I read all the time. Judy Bloom, Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High. Anybody else still remember Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield from SVH? My surrogate sisters. A little later came Harlequin novels, full of heaving bosoms and shuddering sighs. Then mysteries. Eventually I just settled into novels, and I devoured them.
Then I had my first baby, and later my second. I traded in heaving bosoms for cracked nipples, and literally the only book I picked up for years was a very well-worn copy of The Baby Whisperer.
When kids are really little and they’re all over you every waking second of every single day, it’s hard to imagine you’ll ever have time for things like reading again. But it’s true what they say, you do get your life back, or at least little bits and pieces of it.
So, I’m reading again, in between birthday parties and soccer practices. And now that I’m a mother, I am pulled in by the stories of other mothers.
That’s part of why I picked When the Moon is Low, by Nadia Hashimi, for my book club this month.
The book tells the story of Fereiba, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a teacher, a mother of three. And later, when her comfortable, middle class life crumbles around her, a refugee forced to flee her home in Afghanistan with her children.
The parts of the book that resonated the most were the ones told in Fereiba’s voice. The perspective switches in parts to that of her oldest son, Saleem, and while the story is gripping, my own connection to it wasn’t quite as strong.
The family’s journey is a terrifying and impossible one, and as I read I found myself wondering what I would do if I were in Fereiba’s shoes.
Would I be so brave? Would I fight so hard? I hope I would; I think I would have to. When it’s the life or death of your kids, what choice would you have but to at least fight for the first?
“Children are touched by heaven—their every breath, every laugh, every touch a sip of water to the desert wanderer,” Hashimi writes. “I could not have known this as a child, but I know it as a mother, a truth I learned as my own heart grew, bent, danced, and broke for each of my children.”
And as I pondered this, sitting curled up in a chair in the corner of my living room as my girls lay on the floor amongst their collection of Shopkins, I remembered that some mothers are making those impossible choices right now.
And what is the difference between those women and the ones that I know, between Fereiba and me, other than the places we were born and the lives we were born into?