When the Moon Is Low (Hashimi)

When the Moon Is Low 
Nadia Hashimi, 2015
HarperCollins
400 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780062369574



Summary
Nominee, 2015 Goodreads Best Book of 2015

Mahmoud's passion for his wife Fereiba, a schoolteacher, is greater than any love she's ever known. But their happy, middle-class world—a life of education, work, and comfort—implodes when their country is engulfed in war, and the Taliban rises to power.

Mahmoud, a civil engineer, becomes a target of the new fundamentalist regime and is murdered. Forced to flee Kabul with her three children, Fereiba has one hope to survive: she must find a way to cross Europe and reach her sister's family in England.

With forged papers and help from kind strangers they meet along the way, Fereiba make a dangerous crossing into Iran under cover of darkness. Exhausted and brokenhearted but undefeated, Fereiba manages to smuggle them as far as Greece. But in a busy market square, their fate takes a frightening turn when her teenage son, Saleem, becomes separated from the rest of the family.

Faced with an impossible choice, Fereiba pushes on with her daughter and baby, while Saleem falls into the shadowy underground network of undocumented Afghans who haunt the streets of Europe's capitals. Across the continent Fereiba and Saleem struggle to reunite, and ultimately find a place where they can begin to reconstruct their lives. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1978
Where—New York, New York, USA
• Raised—New Jersey
Education—B.As., Brandeis University; M.D., State University of New York, Brooklyn
Currently—lives in the state of Maryland, USA


Nadia Hashimi was born and raised in New York and New Jersey. Both her parents were born in Afghanistan and left in the early 1970s, before the Soviet invasion. Her mother, granddaughter of a notable Afghan poet, traveled to Europe to obtain a Master’s degree in civil engineering and her father came to the United States, where he worked hard to fulfill his American dream and build a new, brighter life for his immediate and extended family.

Nadia was fortunate to be surrounded by a large family of aunts, uncles and cousins, keeping the Afghan culture an integral part of their daily lives.

Nadia attended Brandeis University where she obtained degrees in Middle Eastern Studies and Biology. In 2002, she made her first trip to Afghanistan with her parents who had not returned to their homeland since leaving in the 1970s. It was a bittersweet experience for everyone, finding relics of childhood homes and reuniting with loved ones.

Nadia enrolled in medical school in Brooklyn and became active with an Afghan-American community organization that promoted cultural events and awareness, especially in the dark days after 9/11. She graduated from medical school and went on to complete her pediatric training at NYU/Bellevue hospitals in New York City. On completing her training, Nadia moved to Maryland with her husband where she works as a pediatrician. She’s also a part of the “Lady Docs,” a group of local female physicians who exercise, eat and blog together.

With her rigorous medical training completed, Nadia turned to a passion that had gone unexplored. Her upbringing, experiences and love for reading came together in the form of stories based in the country of her parents and grandparents (some even make guest appearances in her tales!).

Her debut novel, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell was released  in 2014. Her second novel, When The Moon Is Low, followed in 2015 and chronicled the perilous journey of an Afghan family as they fled Taliban-controlled Kabul and fell into the dark world of Europe's undocumented.

She and her husband are the beaming parents of four curious, rock star children, two goldfish and a territorial African Grey parrot. (From the author's website.)



Book Reviews
A must-read saga about borders, barriers, and the resolve of one courageous mother fighting to cross over.
Oprah Magazine


[T]he Taliban has on daily life in Kabul.... Hashimi masterfully captures Saleem's moving story as he squats in refugee camps, stealthily makes his way to Italy, and unexpectedly finds transport to France, all while haunted by loving memories of Mahmood. Verdict: Expertly depict[s] the anxiety and excitement that accompanies a new life. —Stephanie Sendaula, Library Journal
Library Journal



Discussion Questions
1. Fereiba describes herself as “an outsider in my father’s home” as a child, and then becomes a literal outsider as a refugee. What do you think the author is trying to say about being an outsider? Is there anythingpositive to be gained from having an outsider’s perspective and experience? Who are the outsiders in your family or society?

2. What do you make of KokoGul? Is she the classic “wicked stepmother”, or are there more layers to her? What do you think she was like at Fereiba’s age? What motivates her most as a wife and mother?

3. In hindsight, knowing what happened, did Fereiba make the right decision to leave Kabul? Was she right to press on towards London without Saleem? What would you have done in her situation?

4. Fereiba’s family frequently gets by thanks to the kindness of strangers, particularly Hakan and Hayal, the Turkish couple who take in the family and generously help support them. Why do you think Hakan and Hayal do this? Should Fereiba’s family have stayed in Turkey with them? What compels them to leave a seeming safe harbor and continue to Europe?

5. When Saleem is talking with Roksana about why she works to help refugees he

...wondered what kind of person he would be if he were in her shoes. Would he take up the cause of srangers? Would he care enough about how people were being treated that he would spend his time handing out food and filling out applications on their behalf? He hoped he would. But it was very possible he wouldn’t.

Would you do what Saleem wonders about?

6. Saleem’s journey is dramatically affected by three girls his own age: Ekin, the Turkish farmer’s daughter, Roksana, the Greek aid worker, and Mimi, the Albanian prostitute. What does he owe to each of them? Why do you think they helped him, even when it was risky for them?

7. Who is the man Saleem encounters in the refugee camp in Calais? Is he really, as he claims, a friend of Fereiba’s beloved grandfather?

8. There is water imagery throughout the novel. As the old man stares out over the English Channel that divides Saleem from his family, we read that...

From here is was easy to see the currents, linear streams of water a shade different from the rest of the ocean, like secret passages within the depths.

As Saleem gets closer, Fereiba dreams of him

...swimming across a brilliant, blue ocean...There was water all around him, and he glided through, swimming in smooth, strong strkes as if he’d been raised by the ocean.

What is the significance of the water imagery? What message does it carry about the family’s journey?

9. What do you think happens to Saleem? Is he ultimately reunited with his family? What will happen to Samira and Aziz? How will their lives be different than their older brother’s?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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