Prologue

The day the Taliban assassinated Ahmad Shah Massoud, I crossed the Khyber Pass from Pakistan in a fever. I do not remember much about that day. Two nights later, my husband and I followed the shortwave radio reports of the attack on the Americans. As their shining city burned, I listened wearily to the distant shouts of “Allahu Akbar” from the village in the valley below my cabin. The staccato of automatic weapons sang a familiar anthem to the greatness of our tribes as bold tracer bullets etched the dark night—the shooting stars of zealous fools.

My husband stood on the sill, his sturdy shoulders filling the door frame. I never dreamed there would be a time when I would loathe him. I never dreamed I would curse him and rail upon him and defy him. I never dreamed my oldest son would become a legend in the resistance or that I would stare into the muzzle of a Kalashnikov and wish for the flash of a hasty round. I never dreamed I would dine with the Kabul elite or feel indebted to my enemy. I never dreamed love was violent and cruel. I did not know passion and jealousy were unmerciful, like the roar and flame of war. I did not know forgiveness was such a weary journey.

I thought my life would be romantic. I thought I would squander idyllic seasons in my medieval valley, among my books, surrounded by my children and my grandchildren. My life did not follow the course of my dreams.

I was wrong to dream. I was wrong about many things. But most of all, I was wrong about love.

 

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