Thursday, November 25, 2010

Lipstick in Afghanistan

Lipstick in Afghanistan by Roberta Gately

Elsa grew up poor in a suburb of Boston. She decides to become an ER nurse with the intention of helping others. When her mother dies she decides to become a foreign aid nurse and ends up being assigned to Afghanistan just after 9/11.

Elsa is assigned to a clinic in Bamiyan where there is no running water or electricity and where the Taliban has just left the village. Not even the ER of Boston with its gunshots, stabbings and illegal drug overdoses can prepare Elsa for the clinic in Afghanistan. She is also not at all prepared for the restrictions that go with being female in a Muslim country.

Parween is a Afghan woman. She has grown up quite liberally, being allowed a degree of freedom while living with her uncle. She has an arranged marriage which turns out to be a love match.

Parween and Elsa meet over a deadly accident when a bus hits a land mine and Parween's best friend is killed. They become very good friends and have adventures trying to save friends or to better Parween's circumstances. These adventures are not well thought out and indeed very dangerous.

Elsa also has a love interest, a Special Forces soldier whom she is not supposed to fraternize with.

I loved this story. Elsa is as naive as they come with respect to the hardships of the Afghanis. Elsa's heart is in the right place but she is thoughtless with her comments and actions. Parween is a rebel but being female has also made her very naive about the situation even though she has lived through terrible times and seen cruelty and tragedy. These women bond over their love of lipstick which makes them feel better.

This a great story about the hardships and turmoil of everyday life among the gentle and generous Afghan people.

First Line: "Do you hear it?"
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