C. R. Hurst

Format: Kindle Edition

How do you live a full life when given little freedom? How do you create a secure home in a land ravaged by war? How can you forgive infidelity? How can you continue living when your dreams have died? These questions lie at the heart of The Poppy Field Diary. Spanning the years from 1962 to 2002, the novel follows the 40 year journey of an Afghan woman who narrates the story of her troubled marriage. Its author, Carey Richard, captures the beauty and tragedy of this woman’s life and country with such exquisite imagery and sensitivity that I think it the best fiction title I have read this year.

What impresses me the most about The Poppy Field Diary is that it presents a woman’s perspective written convincingly by a man. The introspection and compassion illustrated by the author surprised me. I never once doubted the credibility of his narration and even think that the perspective may have allowed him an objectivity rarely seen in women’s fiction, where men are often portrayed as one dimensional rogues. That is not the case here. The husband though flawed is sympathetic, as are all the characters in The Poppy Field Diary.

Another aspect of the novel that I find especially effective is how easily Richard blends the personal and political. The story’s backdrop features a country in turmoil. From corrupt warlords who gain power by western influence to the rise of the Taliban, the reader sees the political struggles of Afghanistan through a woman’s eyes. She stands witness as her family and her country struggle for survival amid the horror of endless war. Yet the story is not a political one but is instead one woman’s personal journey to a state of grace, where forgiveness can transcend even the darkest of lies. The Poppy Field Diary is not a book I will forget.

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