NO MORE MULBERRIES: A BOOK REVIEW

The name alone of the country Afghanistan conjures up images of war, strife, death, despair and deprivation. Intellectually we know there is a life beyond the headlines, an everyday existence which is rarely written about. A few books in recent years have emerged to fill the gap of our lack of knowledge and one of the best of these is Mary Smith’s excellent ‘No More Mulberries’.

Although a fiction novel, it is evident that the author draws on her personal experience as a health worker for ten years in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

‘No More Mulberries’ follows the life of Scottish-born midwife Miriam, who has wholeheartedly embraced Afghanistan and relishes her work with the local people in the rural community of her second husband. Here she makes friends, finds fulfilment with her work however cracks quickly appear in her life.

Her husband Iqbal is struggling to cope with the return to his home village and to balance the rigid expectations of his family, friends and colleagues with his previously more independent life in Pakistan, where he could equally celebrate and be proud of Miriam’s success. As Iqbal escapes into a world of work and silence, Miriam, against her husband’s wishes, joins another health clinic as a translator for Afghan paramedics and foreign doctors. Here the past and present collide as a friend of her first husband, her first and true love, rides into the clinic to bring her for a visit to the village she first lived in when newly married and in Afghanistan years earlier.

The book follows the intense journey of Miriam and partly Iqbal’s journey in the present-day as well as brilliantly bringing their past vivdly alive for us in flashbacks. Through these the characters deep introspection develops into an inner soul-searching journey. For both past traumas has marred their present lives and that of their children. Is it too late for them, they both wonder as their relationship seems to flounder? How can they live in a village that threatens to engulf them by history and tradition?

The book is set in the stunning natural landscape of the countryside as well as to the increasingly unstable political backdrop where tribal tensions are growing in severity. The, at times, precarious situation surrounding Miriam and her family ensures this is a tense, compulsive read which never flags. I was riveted by both the epic sweeping story as well as the wonderful descriptive writing and the beautifully drawn and varied characters in ‘No More Mulberries’.

Mary Smith is an assured writer who unravels the multifaceted lives of her characters with creative skill, whilst retaining a tight control of the overall novel. I was hooked from the very beginning and felt a sense of loss upon finishing the book … one of those times I just didn’t want to say farewell to my new friends! This is one of my favourite books this year and I look forward to reading more by this author.

Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

Available:  Amazon UK    And Amazon US 


119 thoughts on “NO MORE MULBERRIES: A BOOK REVIEW

  1. Mary Smith says:

    Annika, I just popped back here to say thank you and found lots more comments up to a couple of days ago. I’m thrilled by the response to your lovely review. Thank you so much both to you and to everyone who has already read and enjoyed No More Mulberries and to those who have added it to their tbr lists.

  2. Book Club Mom says:

    Hi Annika – thanks for sharing your review of No More Mulberries. It’s great to see more books from Afghanistan that depict the lesser-told stories. I’ll be adding this to my TBR list since I also love when characters become my friends!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Barbara, I have a feeling our reading loves are very similar … as the book came to an end I almost gasped. There is such a story yet to tell of their lives, I didn’t want to leave my new friends! I’m sure you’ll love this book … and would enjoy reading your thoughts on it when you have a chance. Hope you’re having a good week despite the very very cold – here it’s relatively warmish (10 degrees centigrade) … I keep having to remind myself it’s December as the weather is so unseasonable!

  3. roughwighting says:

    Thank you for this wonderful review of a book I’ve been wanting to read, but it got on the backburner because of my too long TBR list. But not after your excellent recommendation, Annika. Mary’s book is now on my front burner.
    And let me add that I’m so glad to find another post by you! I was going into “lack of Annika blog” shock! ;-0

    • Annika Perry says:

      Oh no, we can’t have you going into “lack of Annika blog” shock!! 😀😀 How I needed that laugh and smile from your comment, Pam! Glad my post obliged and even more so that this book is edging its way to the top of your TBR list. I often find a book has to be read at just the right time, when your mood and spirit suits it … so it was with this one! Wonderful! Have a magical weekend, filled with lots of books and writing! Xx

  4. Bespoke Traveler says:

    It seems impossible for the war and strife not to be a part of any story about Afghanistan. I recently finished “The Bookseller of Kabul” by Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad. Her work also touched on the daily lives of a family who contend with the after-effects of war, tradition versus modernity, the meaning of democracy, and gender issues. I’ll be interested to compare Mary Smith’s fiction with Seierstad’s nonfiction piece.

    • Annika Perry says:

      I would love to learn you reflections on the comparison of these two books. Thank you so much for mentioning ‘The Bookseller of Kabul’, one I have seen around and meant to read … I will now put this straight on my Christmas list. I hadn’t realised it was nonfiction and can’t wait to read it … sounds fascinating and a life-changing experience for the journalist, I imagine.

  5. D. Wallace Peach says:

    I really enjoyed this book too, Annika, and for all the same reasons. I loved reading a story set in a country that I know so little about beyond the skew of the news. Beautifully written with vivid characters and a lot of heart. I’m so glad you like it. 🙂 Happy Reading!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Diana, I’ve been astonished by how many have read this book – but not at all surprised at the unreserved praise for it! You sum it up perfectly in your comment and wow, so much heart! This is a country that’s always fascinated me and to see it from this perspective was incredible, no matter the wonderful characters and terrific story. Reading truly is a solace for the soul. Wishing you a great last day of NaNoWr … go for it! 😀❤️

  6. Julie Holmes, author says:

    What a wonderful, detailed review, Annika! Sounds like a great story to showcase those regions and make them more human rather than all the conflict-ridden reporting. There are regular people, and this book sounds like it will help us meet them.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Julie, that’s exactly what this book achieves, bringing humanity to this country, its people … all from the perspective of an outsider who has unequivocally embraced the place and people – and who is totally accepted by most! I became so engrossed in the story I felt transported to the region and there was that odd moment of confusion, shift as I realigned myself to my present whereabouts once I put the book down!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Natalie, warmest thanks for your lovely comment and this is a great book for the holiday, when you can concentrate for longer spells, spending time with your new ‘friends’. You’re in for a treat, I promise!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you so much, Jacquie and I know what you mean. There are certain books you keep hearing great things about and this was one of those for me. I also have Mary’s short story collection on my kindle and look forward to reading that soon.

  7. Khaya Ronkainen says:

    This certainly sound like a must read. Your brilliant review is persuasive. 🙂 I will, and I must add this book to my growing TBR. Thank you, my friend…xx

    • Annika Perry says:

      Khaya, thank you so much … it was a brilliant read and one I wanted to do justice. I’m smiling at your description of it being ‘persuasive’! I know, those TBR lists just keep growing but I’ve found spaces now and then when I tackle a few. This book had been on my kindle for a while! Enjoy sometime. Hope the Autumn is beautiful … I saw you’ve written a post and hoping to pop over latest next week … things a bit stir crazy at the moment. hugs xx

    • Annika Perry says:

      So glad you’ve nabbed yourself a copy, Jacqui! 😀 The great advantage of this book is that it is told mainly from the viewpoint of Miriam and lets us understand her passion for the country. Also the people from the country are expertly portrayed and we gain real insight into their emotions and thoughts … you’ll love the book, I’m sure!

  8. Mary Smith says:

    Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:
    Thanks to Marcia for allowing me to share Annika Perry’s wonderful five star review of No More Mulberries on her blog. I was thrilled to see it – and to see the lovely comments from people who have already read the book. I spent the day in a warm glow 🙂

    • Annika Perry says:

      Mary, I’m so happy you spent a day in a warm glow!! Deservedly so! ❤️ Thank you so much for the reblog and happy Marcia was pleased to do so on her website. Keep enjoying the comments as they come in!

  9. restlessjo says:

    This sounds like a must read, Annika. It’s so important to have some insight into the world of others and not just what the tabloids tell us. Thanks so much. 🙂 🙂 Did you get university sorted for your son?

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jo, I absolutely agree that we need to be reminded of the individual people caught up in the bigger news … Mary has a wonderful skill in drawing us into Miriam’s world, showing us Afghanistan through her eyes whilst writing a compelling story of the conflict and division in her own life.

      Thank you so much for remembering and asking about Sammy. He has already received three offers, two unconditional and one yesterday from Leeds University. Just waiting for NottinghamUniversity which is his favourite and we think they do interviews! Another trip beckons! Exciting times! 😀

  10. Yeah, Another Blogger says:

    Hi Annika. This book sounds like a definite winner.

    Speaking of books: Recently I read Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes work. It’s a novella. A Study In Scarlet. I hadn’t read any Doyle in ages. It’s real good, better than I was expecting.
    Enjoy the rest of the week.
    Neil

    • Annika Perry says:

      Neil, it definitely is a winner and I think a lot of people agree with me considering the huge number of reviews on Amazon for her book!

      It’s always a pleasant surprise when a book is better than you expected. I haven’t read any Doyle in years but loved the new Sherlock series … you have me tempted.

  11. Carol Balawyder says:

    Not only does this novel sound interesting but also important. It is so true that our glimpses of these countries are of war and despair and terrorism but there are real lives with human dreams. Such a novel breaks down the stereotypes about these countries. Thanks for this superb review, Annika. ❤

    • Annika Perry says:

      Carol, you sum this up perfectly and it is very much about breaking down the stereotypes. I was particularly impressed by this through Miriam’s two husbands who are quite unlike what one would expect. I think the book has an edge, for me at least, written from the viewpoint of a European in a very foreign country, but one which she makes her own. She sees everything from both perspectives. Many thanks for reading and your insightful comment. Wishing you a lovely rest of the week, Carol. ❤️🌸

  12. hilarymb says:

    Hi Annika – thanks for this … I’ve made a note and will get back to reading a lot more in 2019 … so will be reading this – you and your commenters obviously highly regard it – as too the author. So pleased to read your review … cheers Hilary

    • Annika Perry says:

      Hilary, thank you so much for reading and your lovely comment. At times in life books by necessity take second place but I really hope you have a chance to enjoy them once again next year. As you can tell, this is one I would highly recommend and yes, I too have been overwhelmed with the warm, positive and generous comments. I had no idea so many had read ‘No More Mulberries’ already – it’s like coming late to the party! 😀

    • Annika Perry says:

      Helena, I know just the feeling … just a few words can bring the memories of a good book and their characters flooding back! So glad my review was the catalyst. I had no idea how popular her book was until reading the comments … and then seeing all the reviews already on Amazon.

  13. delphini510 says:

    Annika, your reviews are just superb and this one is up there. Brilliant work!
    I am so taken with the story and your introduction to Mary Smith’s book makes me feel that I am already reading the book. The charachters come to life.
    I have already ordered a copy for my Kindle and it is next up on my list. I can’t wait. 😊 .

    Miriam

    • Annika Perry says:

      Miriam, thank you so much for your kind comment about the review … it was a joy to write. I’m so happy it tempted you to buy the book and please do let me know your thoughts when you finish. As you read the main character is your namesake … not many characters in books with the lovely name of Miriam! 😃❤️

  14. Sharon Bonin-Pratt says:

    Thank you, Annika, for an introduction to a writer I didn’t know about. I’ve read Khaled Hosseini’s books and loved all of them, so I’m intrigued by another writer who focuses on Afghanistan. Your passion for “No More Mulberries” gleams throughout, and you’ve described enough of the story that I have an idea about how much I’ll like the story. Like any really good reviewer, you haven’t written too much, leaving much for me to discover. I’ve added this title to my TBR list.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Shari, thank you so much for your wonderful comment/discussion. I’ve had a deep interest in Afghanistan since I was young and read quite a number of reportage books. Hosseini’s books are astonishing in their breadth and descriptive detail. I’m glad my passion for No More Mulberries came across … I found it captivatingl, fascinating as well as inspiring. Yeah … good to know I achieved the perfect balance andI revealed just enough but not too much! Enjoy when you have a chance. hugs xx

    • Annika Perry says:

      Yeah! Mary Ann, I’m happy you loved the review and have bought a copy of the book. I know you will thoroughly enjoy it … I would love to know your thoughts about it when you’re read the book. Wishing you a lovely rest of the day! (Just gone five here and already pitch black!)

      • maryannniemczura says:

        Oh, it gets dark here a tad earlier than that. Winter is approaching yet not even here and we have had record snows and below zero temperatures. I’ll let you know about the book when I have read it. Right now I am starting to be like my husband and am reading several books at once. John Grisham has my attention once more. What an excellent writer too!

  15. Mary Smith says:

    Oh, Annika, thank you so much for this wonderful review. I’m delighted you enjoyed No More Mulberries. And thanks to all those who have said in the comments how they enjoyed it. Wow! My day just got a whole lot better 🙂

    • Annika Perry says:

      Mary, it’s a delight to share my enjoyment of your book here. How wonderful that so many have already read it, love it and lots of people keen to read it! Congratulations on your success – much deserved! 😀

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you so much, Jena, and that is a great idea about series novels!! Although I can imagine the tug of the heartstrings would be even stronger after spending many books with one’s fictional friends! It is pure magic and joy to so captivated by characters in books … happy reading, my friend! xx

      • Jina Bazzar says:

        Yes, it’s very sad. This year two of my favorite series – fantasy – released the last installment. One was book 13, the other book 10. I didn’t pick them up a decade ago, but i’ve been following both series ever since i learned about e-books…. seven years ago. I was really sad when i flipped the last pages. Oh well, i can always go back and binge read the entire series in a few years and rediscover.
        Have a nice day.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jill, I’m sure you’ll love this as much as I did and so glad you have another book to add to your list! As young we were always saying ‘snap’ to each other … so often we’d liked the same things as a friend etc. Don’t use the expression often nowadays but might well do now!😃 Hugs xx ❤️

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