This morning, I’d like you guys to give Mary Smith a big, smiling welcome to The Write Stuff. Mary is here today to share a lovely review of her book, No More Mulberries, and I know you’ll be fascinated by it. Please help others find it by sharing all over your social media. Thanks!
James J. Cudney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
No More Mulberries is an international contemporary drama written by Mary Smith and published in 2009. The story focuses on Miriam, a Scottish midwife, who has married two men from Afghanistan during her lifetime. The tale unfolds by jumping time frames across different chapters to share the reasons why Miriam’s life has become what it is today. At times, her days have been heartbreaking, and at others, they have been an admirable source of strength. I chose this book because I’d seen many positive reviews and it fit the parameters for my month of international and/or autobiographical reads. Let’s chat more about this complex and wonderful story…
Miriam had a wonderful husband and life, but he passed away. She had a young son to raise in Afghanistan during a difficult period in the country’s history, especially for a red-haired Scottish woman with strong beliefs about how things should be. Knowledgeable in medicine, she won over some of the village, yet she always knew she was viewed differently. Then, she remarried and had another child with the second husband. At first, they had a strong love. Although she’d converted to Muslim, her husband, Iqbal was careful to find a balance between his beliefs and her beliefs. While he could be strict, he was by no means radical or excessively controlling of his wife. As tension rises between them, Miriam revisits her past to understand why her first husband died. Through the process, her eyes are opened about her own blame in the new marriage as well as as what truly happened to her first beloved.
The story is rich with a supporting cast who provide laughter, love, fear, and pain. Smith eloquently shares a culture and a lifestyle with her audience, some who may know little about the Muslim faith or Afghani culture. While I’ve read a few other books focusing on this part of the world, they tended to stick to the religious aspects of the Middle East rather than the social aspects. I was glad to experience a different side of the life through this story and the author’s wonderful ability to showcase both the good and the bad.
Questions of parenting, forgiveness, pain, tolerance, and curiosity quickly enter a reader’s mind. What will become of someone who defies her husband? Who will stand by you when you have no one else to trust? How do you ensure the village listens to your advice on bearing a child when the culture dictates the complete opposite solution? This novel helped me understand a different mindset, and while it wasn’t necessarily one I agree with or support, I found a balance of alternative ideas and options to push me to think more critically. It’s a great experience, and one we should all have when reading a book about something different than our own knowledge.
A great find, and something that would be a benefit for all readers with an open mind, a curiosity about life outside their own culture, and a small glimpse into the world that many know from the outside but little know from the inside.
Scottish-born midwife, Miriam loves working at a health clinic in rural Afghanistan 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. When an old friend appears, urging her to visit the village where once 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 wrong.
Author Mary Smith
Author, poet and freelance journalist, Mary Smith lives in South West Scotland.
She lived in Pakistan and Afghanistan for ten years, working for a leprosy control programme and establishing a mother and child care programme providing skills and knowledge to women health volunteers. On her return to Scotland she obtained a liberal arts degree followed by a Masters in Creative Writing at Glasgow University.
Mary has worked as senior reporter on a local paper and as a feature writer for an award-winning lifestyle magazine before going freelance to focus on her own writing. Her poems have been widely published in poetry magazines and anthologies and a full length poetry collection, Thousands Pass Here Every Day, was published by Indigo Dreams.
Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is a memoir of her time in Afghanistan and the country also provides the setting for her novel No More Mulberries.
In collaboration with photographers Allan Devlin and Keith Kirk she has worked on three local history books for Amberley Publishing: Dumfries Through Time, Castle Douglas Through Time and Secret Dumfries. A fourth title, Dumfries A-Z will be published in 2019.
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