I gave No More Mulberries 4* out of 5*
Scottish-born midwife, Miriam loves her work at a health clinic in rural Afghanistan and the warmth and humour of her women friends in the village, but she can no longer ignore the cracks appearing in her marriage. Her doctor husband has changed from the loving, easy-going man she married and she fears he regrets taking on a widow with a young son, who seems determined to remain distant from his stepfather.
When Miriam acts as translator at a medical teaching camp she hopes time apart might help her understand the cause of their problems. Instead, she must focus on helping women desperate for medical care and has little time to think about her failing marriage. When an old friend appears, urging her to visit the village where she and her first husband had been so happy. Miriam finds herself travelling on a journey into her past, searching for answers to why her marriage is going so horribly wrong.
Her husband, too, has a past of his own – from being shunned as a child to the loss of his first love.
I have to be honest; this has been on my TBR pile for ages and I’m sorry but it was the cover that put me off; I wasn’t sure I liked it. And I’m ashamed to say I didn’t even read the blurb; the book was recommended to me by a friend so I just bought it. I should have listened to her; this is a brilliant read. Different from my usual preference but the writing style of Mary Smith is wonderfully paced; flows so well, and she tells a great story. Not only that, the reader (me!) learned a lot about Afghanistan some twenty years ago, about the culture, the society, the politics and the people. Because the author has first hand knowledge of all these; she lived and worked in the country.
It’s fictional but comes alive through the portrayal of the characters and the way they behave: the Western doctors, the people who live in the rural villages, the children. But none more so than Miriam and her husband. Miriam is in a strange country and place, in a second marriage (having been widowed) and her poignant memories of her first husband mingle with the loyalty to her present husband, Iqbal.
This is such an emotional read: of love, allegiances, losses, secrets and, I think, emancipation.
The dialogue, both internal and spoken is excellent, fits the characters well. I could feel great frustration for Miriam though her words and thoughts.
And the descriptions of the setting of the book; the larger picture of Afghanistan and the smaller, more intimate scenes of everyday existence bring the whole book to life.
For me No More Mulberries is an unusual and interesting story and I have no hesitation in recommending Mary Smith’s evocative book to any reader.
Oh, and by the way, I decided i really do like the cover!
Links to buy:
About the Author:
Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She wanted others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.
Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan.
Links to Mary: