When she's found with her murdered husband's blood on her hands, Zeba is almost strangled by his outraged cousin. She's rescued only to land in jail, accused of killing her husband.
Life in Chil Mahtab, an Afghan women’s prison, is an eye-opening experience for the shy mother of four. Once Zeba overcomes the shock of Kamal’s last moments and resigns herself to her new home, she discovers the incredible stories that have sent so many unfortunate women to its overcrowded cells. From runaway girls to betrayed mothers, each tells a tale of family honor used as a weapon against her, leaving prison a safe haven indeed. Zeba draws upon the spells her own mother, Gulnaz—who was often ostracized as a sorceress despite having a powerful spiritual leader for a father—taught her to help as many women as she can. Luckily, Zeba’s bother has hired Yusuef, a young lawyer, to represent her. Yet Zeba’s refusal to help in her own defense, her determination to face execution for a crime she may not have committed, maddens Yusuef and raises disturbing questions: what could have driven her to impale a hatchet in Kamal’s head? Could she be protecting the real killer? As Yusuef investigates, Kamal’s secrets come to light and Zeba’s courage begins to extend to surprising lengths. Hashimi (When the Moon is Low, 2015, etc.) mercilessly exposes the savage crimes against women committed in the name of honor. Yet Zeba’s fate lies caught between her presumed guilt and Kamal’s own dark secrets. As Hashimi slowly unveils the horror Zeba faced the day of his death, she masterfully builds tension, torquing sympathies to heart-wrenching levels. Unfortunately, the happy ending falls a bit flat, as the tale of human rights abuses fizzles out.
A powerful, if flawed, portrait of an honorable woman living amid dishonorable men.