The unvarnished but heartfelt tale of the lone woman stationed with a remote reconstruction team in northern Afghanistan during a year marked by romance, tragedy and solar ovens—winner of the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.
Retired American diplomat McArdle’s own experience gives authentic flavor to her story of American diplomat Angela (translated as angel or Farishta in the Dari language) Morgan, forced to choose between early retirement and an unappealing 12-month posting to Mazar-i-Sharif in the war zone. Widowed after a bombing in Beirut and still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, 47-year-old Angela is driven by determination and impulsiveness, both of which emerge when defying convention by riding a stallion in public, facing down warlords and moving around without armed guards in dangerous territory. In an episodic narrative, she befriends her translator Rahim and gets embroiled in his forbidden love affair; saves the life of an Afghani child; falls foul of a devious but attractive Russian spy; engages with imprisoned and segregated women; finds a purpose in introducing solar ovens to a population busily denuding its country of trees; and encounters romance again with a younger, starchier man, a British Major who initially disapproves of her presence and activities. Despite the danger and drama, the story’s pedestrian tone is accented by a documentary feel and wooden dialogue, although a final sequence of disasters intensifies emotion.
Sincere but earthbound.