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A House Without Windows

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A vivid, unforgettable story of an unlikely sisterhood—an emotionally powerful and haunting tale of friendship that illuminates the plight of women in a traditional culture—from the author of the bestselling The Pearl That Broke Its Shell and When the Moon Is Low.

For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered with a hatchet in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Her children swear their mother could not have committed such a heinous act. Kamal’s family is sure she did, and demands justice.

Barely escaping a vengeful mob, Zeba is arrested and jailed. As Zeba awaits trial, she meets a group of women whose own misfortunes have also led them to these bleak cells: thirty-year-old Nafisa, imprisoned to protect her from an honor killing; twenty-five-year-old Latifa, who ran away from home with her teenage sister but now stays in the prison because it is safe shelter; and nineteen-year-old Mezhgan, pregnant and unmarried, waiting for her lover’s family to ask for her hand in marriage. Is Zeba a cold-blooded killer, these young women wonder, or has she been imprisoned, as they have been, for breaking some social rule? For these women, the prison is both a haven and a punishment. Removed from the harsh and unforgiving world outside, they form a lively and indelible sisterhood.

Into this closed world comes Yusuf, Zeba’s Afghan-born, American-raised lawyer, whose commitment to human rights and desire to help his motherland have brought him back. With the fate of this seemingly ordinary housewife in his hands, Yusuf discovers that, like Afghanistan itself, his client may not be at all what he imagines.

A moving look at the lives of modern Afghan women, A House Without Windows is astonishing, frightening, and triumphant.

432 pages, Paperback

First published August 16, 2016

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About the author

Nadia Hashimi

12 books3,246 followers
Reader, Mom, Pediatrician, Author, Advocate, Dog Walker (only my own, no solicitations please.)

Loves dark chocolate, coffee, and many other clichéd indulgences.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,335 reviews
Profile Image for Crumb.
189 reviews527 followers
June 19, 2018
"Alone and free of angst and sorrow
I've bled enough for today and tomorrow
Now it is time for my bud to bloom
I'm a sparrow in love with solitude
All my secrets contained within me
I sing aloud --- I'm alone, finally!"

This book will leave an imprint on my soul, of that I am sure. There are few books that leave such an impression on me. This novel made me grateful- grateful for so many things. Most of all, grateful to be a woman in America.

This book takes place in Afghanistan , present day. We are introduced to Zeba. As a reader, we are given a glimpse into Zeba's life. Her husband, Kamal is very, very abusive. However, there is not much that can be done about that. Not in Afghanistan. Not as a woman.

In Afghanistan, women have few rights.

In the courtyard, Zeba is found with Kamal's blood all over her. A hatchet in the side of his head. No matter what the reason, it is the ultimate sin for a woman to murder her husband.

You know what they say. You can't kill your husband, even if he's the horned devil himself.

After this gruesome scene occurs, Zeba is taken prisoner at the local women's prison known as Chil Mahtab. You might be thinking to yourself, What are the crimes that will get you arrested and imprisoned in Afghanistan? Pretty much anything. No, seriously..there is something called Zina aka "love crimes." These crimes include having sex before marriage or committing adultery.

This is the story of Zeba's arrest and her trial.

As a woman reading this, I have to say I was outraged. I have grown accustomed to, and admittedly have taken for granted the freedoms and liberties that are afforded me as a U.S. citizen. It is infuriating to read about some of the so called “crimes” that these women committed that landed them in Chil Mahtab.

“Why Would He Believe Me? I’m only half a witness as a woman.”

Also, it is important to note how effective the character development was in this book. Especially between mother and daughter. Gulnaz was Zeba’s mother.. and they had a complicated relationship. However throughout the book, as the story progressed, their relationship did as well. It grew. Even though their relationship seemed strained at times, the lengths a mother will go to protect their young..one can never underestimate that.

Although this was a difficult story to read at times, it was an important one to read. It brought up a lot of feelings for me..which only the best of stories can do. This was an absolute pageturner. In addition, there is nothing better than reading a book that also teaches you about another culture. I've always been fascinated with different cultures and the author did an incredible job of shedding light on the muslim culture in Afghanistan.

This is a story that is going to stay with me. It is a story that was heart-wrenching and beautiful, all at the same time. I don’t think I am going to forget this one..not a chance.
Profile Image for Erin.
2,960 reviews485 followers
May 4, 2017
If Nadia Hashimi and Khaled Hosseini ever decide to collaborate on a book or a series of books about Afghanistan, I would donate many reading hours to soak up every beautiful word. Both authors possess the gift of creating characters that I find difficult to leave once I've turned the last page.

In " A House Without Windows", Nadia Hashimi takes readers to a woman's prison in Afghanistan and examines the way in which justice works in that country after the Taliban has been pushed back by western troops. Our main character is Zeba, a mother of four, awaiting trial, accused of the brutal killing of her husband. Enter Yusef, the Afghan-American, an idealistic lawyer who returns to the land of his youth and is chosen to defend Zeba. The problem soon arises that Yusef cannot appear to build a case and his client isn't really willing to help him out.

"A House Without Windows" examines the plight of Afghanistan's women as their fates straddle the link between their country's traditional beliefs and a new world. Like Yusef, I felt frustration at the way in which things were, but I could also understand the realities of what these women face in the justice system. As one character laments later "How the world would be different if a woman could judge."

Definitely not a story to be missed!

Our world is the spaces between the rocks and meat. We see the face that should but doesn't smile, the silver of sun between dead tree branches. Time passes differently through a woman's body. We are haunted by all the hours of yesterday and teased by a few moments of tomorrow. That is how we live------ torn between what has already happened and what is yet to come.
Profile Image for Nadia.
Author 12 books3,246 followers
September 1, 2016
My thoughts: I poured my heart into that last chapter.
Profile Image for Pakinam Mahmoud.
755 reviews2,943 followers
May 7, 2023
"ما جدوى قول المرأة الحقيقة في حين لن يُعتد به ولو لدقيقة؟ "
ما جدوي شهادة المرأة و هي تعتبر نصف شهادة فقط؟
ما جدوي الكلام أصلاً في بلد لا يحظي فيه أحد بمحاكمة عادلة؟

بيت بلا نوافذ رواية لطبيبة الأطفال و الكاتبة الأمريكية من أصول أفغانية نادية هاشمي وهي الرواية الثانية التي أقرأها للكاتبة بعد رواياتها الرائعة اللؤلؤة التي كسرت محارتها....

في هذه الرواية تتناول الكاتبة قصة حياة زيبا و هي زوجة و أم ل٤ أطفال أُتهمت بقتل زوجها و تم القبض عليها و دخولها السجن و في أثناء إنتظار محاكمتها تتعرف علي سجينات معظهم محكوم عليهم في جرائم أخلاقية وتمس الشرف من وجهة نظر النظام القضائي في أفغانستان واللي كتير منهم السجن بالنسبة لهم يعتبر ملجأ أكثر أماناً من العالم الخارجي...

نادية هاشمي كاتبة بارعة و الرواية فعلاً مكتوبة حلو ..الإسلوب مشوق بجانب إن الترجمة كانت جيدة جداً..
الكاتبة في كل كتبها تهتم بمشاكل المرأة وتلقي الضوء علي الحياة الصعبة التي تعيشها النساء في أفغانستان وفي الرواية هنا ركزت علي محاولات تطبيق العدالة في بلد تقريباً لا يوجد فيها نظام قضائي حقيقي و ألقت الضوء أيضاً علي جرائم الشرف وإن أي غلطة صغيرة أو حتي قصة حب بريئة ممكن تؤدي إلي دخول الفتاة السجن بمنتهي السهولة..

الرواية حجمها كبير..بنتكلم في ٥٠٠ صفحة ..فيها تطويل في أوقات كتير و كان ممكن أختصارها عن كدة ...يوجد أيضاً الكثير من الحبكات الضعيفة ده غير إن في جزء لا يستهان به عن السحر و تأثير و دوره في حل العديد من المشكلات والجزء دة كان غير مقنع بالنسبة لي بالمرة...

في النهاية الرواية فيها بعض العيوب ولكنها تظل رواية مهمة عن سيدات مش بس تعيش في بيوت بلا نوافذ و لكن ببلد أيضاً بلا نوافذ ،بلا نور و أكيد بلا حرية!
Profile Image for Lori Elliott (catching up).
733 reviews1,779 followers
July 19, 2016
Nadia Hashimi, again, brings to light the plight of Afghani women. Through novels like this women are slowly gaining their voice in the world. I have truly enjoyed all of Hashimis novels and I look forward to her next. “These hardheaded men from their pulpits won’t budge. How the world would be different if a woman could judge!”
Profile Image for Ramzy Alhg.
435 reviews114 followers
January 8, 2023
حين يصبح السجن رغم قسوته ، ملجأً آمناً من العالم المتوحش في الخارج.

للمرة الثالث على التوالي البارعة ناديه هاشمي صوت المرأة الأفغانية ، تضرب بقسوة كل مجرمين الدين الذين فصلوا حياة البشر قياساً على أهوائهم وهرطقاتهم .

بين ثنايا هذا الزخم من الألم والإحباط والسخرية والجديّة والأمل ، وجدت زيبا في كهف الظلمة طريقاً يعبر كل هذا الألم وصولاً الى البهجة المحملة بالدموع. في اشارة الى حياة المرأة التي غالباً تفتقد الى النوافذ التي تحمل دلالة الحرية الإنسانية .

هذه الكاتبة تصطاد قرائها لتغتالهم واحداً بعد الآخر بقلمها .
Profile Image for Donna.
3,903 reviews21 followers
October 7, 2016
This is the 3rd book by this author that I have read....and she hovers in the 3 star range for me. I actually like her stories. They are cultural and that keeps them interesting. I feel her stories put a voice to women who don't seem to have one. However, there are a few things that nag at me regarding the writing.

First, this one dragged a lot and I actually skimmed a good portion in the middle. She is a little too clinical for me as she transitions from scene to scene. She often has some great descriptive strokes, but it is quite sparse. The author did a lot of "explaining" and that is something I'm not fond of when it is overused and in this book, it was overused. Also she spent a lot of time on minutia....hence, more explaining.

Overall, it was more like a sketch than a completed painting for me. I craved more description, more dialogue, more emotion, and more action...and less narrative. When I finished this, book, I was ready to give it 2 stars. But I actually just talked myself into 3.
Profile Image for Patricia Williams.
579 reviews131 followers
April 20, 2019
This was a wonderful story of love, sacrifice and redemption. I really like the way this author writes. She really helps you understand the characters. A story of a young lawyer who wants to help the people in his home country but helping to change the way the laws are read and it has a good ending because somehow the judge decides to be fair! I learned a lot of historical things in this book also. Very good.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
892 reviews
January 27, 2019
A House Without Windows is written by internationally bestselling author of The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, Nadia Hashimi.

Nadia Hashimi's parents left Afghanistan in the 1970's, before the Soviet invasion. In 2002, Hashimi visited Afghanistan for the first time. She lives with her family in Washington, D.C., where she works as a pediatrician.

For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Barely escaping a vengeful mob, Zeba is arrested and jailed in the women's prison.
Awaiting trial, she meets a group of women, Nafisa, Latifa, and Mezhgan, whose own misfortunes have led them to these bleak cells. For these women, the prison is both a haven and a punishment, and there they form an indelible sisterhood. Is Zeba a cold-blooded killer, her cell mates wonder, or has she been imprisoned, like them, for breaking some social rule? Has she truly inherited her mother's powers of jadu- witchcraft - which can bend fate to her will? Can she save herself? Or them?
A moving look at the lives of modern Afghan women, A House Without Windows is astonishing, unforgettable, and triumphant. 4 ****
Profile Image for Sharon Metcalf.
734 reviews165 followers
November 19, 2017
Imagine how bad things must be for some women in Afghanistan that they are happier, and feel safer, in prison than in their normal lives. Chil Mahtab was the House Without Windows. It was a female prison in Afghanistan. A place filled with women charged with moral crimes. Their "crimes" included such things as leaving an abusive husband, meeting male colleagues unaccompanued, outside working hours, or zina - the name applied to unlawful sexual relations (e.g. sex before, or outside, marriage). In the opening scenes Zeba, the central character has the blood of her dead husband on her hands. Despite the lack of witnesses and the almost the non-existent police investigation, she is charged and imprisoned for murder. She refused to speak up in her own defence and as the story progressed and her reasons were revealed I was shocked. Not only at her thought process but by the way others congratulated her on her decision. To my way of thinking - with my western values - this was all kinds of wrong and defied all logic.

House Without Windows shone a spotlight on the cultural differences between Western society and Islamic Afghanistan. It highlighted the enormous chasm between the value systems of each. As I was reading I became outraged on behalf of these fictitious women and was angered by the Afghani judicial system which seemed farcical. Later I was astounded to learn the author, Nadia Hashimi, had used the Human Rights Watch report to model her female characters and their "crimes". This stuff actually happens!

Though I felt ambivalent about the story during the first half of the book, having only a mild curiousity about whether or not Zeba had actually committed this crime, the second half grabbed me and made me think. I love it when works of fiction open my eyes and force me to think about real world situations the way this one did. In this manner it reminded me of Kahled Hosseini's "A Thousand Splendid Suns" and "The Kite Runner", two books I loved. 3 stars for the first half, 4 stars for the rest. I'm calling it 3.5 and will round up.
Profile Image for Carole.
314 reviews38 followers
February 15, 2017
I struggled to get through this book. I loved her other works. This was dark and depressing and I couldn't really connect with the main character enough to really care about her.
Profile Image for Bam cooks the books ;-).
1,855 reviews232 followers
November 20, 2018
*Read for my library's Readers' Roundtable group, November, 2018.

Yusuf, a young American lawyer of Afghani descent, decides to return to Afghanistan to practice law with an humanitarian group. The case that has piqued his interest is that of a young mother named Seba who is accused of killing her husband. He is hired by her brother to defend her but frustratingly, she won't speak in her own defense, won't explain what happened--and in fact, appears quite insane at time. What dark secret is Seba refusing to reveal?

While Seba is in the women's prison, the reader learns that what we would think of as petty offenses can land a woman in jail, sometimes for years. Everything seems to come down to male honor, even if the woman is the victim.

"What good is a woman's telling of truth
When nothing she says will be taken as proof?"

Yusuf wants to be part of the rebuilding of his birth country and to help establish 'a new era of Afghan jurisprudence' in which the letter of the law is strictly followed. He is frustrated to learn that no investigation into this murder was conducted; it was automatically assumed that Seba was guilty without due process. Will the judge listen to his reasoned arguments even if he cannot provide an alternative theory?

What a terrific insight into what life is like for women in Afghanistan! The Taliban may be gone but their influence is still felt in how women are treated. It is easy to judge customs that are not our own but real change has to come from the people on the inside who see the injustice in the way things are carried on, even if it is part of a long tradition. The oppressor does not easily give up his control.
Profile Image for Book Riot Community.
953 reviews127k followers
August 17, 2016
Zeba has always been the perfect wife and mother, but when her husband is found brutally murdered, she is jailed for the crime, much to the astonishment of her children. As Zeba awaits trial, she gets to know the other women in her cell, who have also suffered great misfortunes and violence at the hands of men. To these women, jail is more of a haven than a punishment, a safe place away from a world where women are treated so cruelly. A necessary, moving look at the lives of Afghan women and the power of sisterhood, The House Without Windows will lift your spirits and shatter your heart.

Backlist bump: When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi

Tune in to our weekly podcast dedicated to all things new books, All The Books: http://bookriot.com/listen/shows/allt...
Profile Image for Stephanie Anze.
657 reviews112 followers
July 26, 2018
"No criminal is worse than a woman who wants to live for herself."

Zeba is a mother of four, a quiet villager and wife to Kamal. While he is abusive, there is little that Zeba can do for herself so she does her best to shelter her children. When Zeba is found with Kamal's blood on her hands and Kamal dead with a hatchet to the back of his head, she is accused of murder. Not uttering a single word, Zeba is taken to the Chil Mahtab jail while she awaits trial. Yusuf, an Afghan-born and American-raised man, idealistic but persistant becomes her lawyer and soon learns that this is no ordinary case.

Having read 'When the Moon is Low' and 'The Pearl that Broke Its Shell', I had high expectations of Nadia Hashimi. Just lke with the two previous books, 'A House Without Windows' is rich in culture, traditions and history. Hashimi did not disappoint. This work is a masterpiece, thought-provocking and a well crafted book. The book opens with Zeba being charged with murder when her husband is found dead in their courtyard. A hatchet is the murder weapon and his blood is on Zeba. To save her from a mob, the police take Zeba to jail. Once there she meets a whole cast of women charged with 'morality crimes', or zina. I particularly enjoyed the bond and friendship of the inmates. That is the heart of the book. Jailed for fleeing abusive husbands, fathers & homes, falling in love with a different man other than the one their family had chosen for them or being pregnant out of wedlock, these women become a family far more supportive than their own. The prose was well written, characterization spot on and the pace well meted out. All throughout the narrative, I kept wondering wether Zeba was guilty or not but either way, she was a victim too. Poignant, relevant and broad in scope, this is one great read.

Its quite saddening that currently, many woman are jailed because of zina. Zina refers to premarital or extramarital sex, illegal and illicit in many middle eastern countries. What is more confounding is the fact that rape is considered part of zina and many woman have been jailed, stoned and lashed for it. Not surprisingly, men do not face zina with the same harhness as woman, if at all. In the early 2000's there were cases (yes, plural cases) of women jailed because they reported a rape. A pregnancy resulting from their ordeal was further proof of their "crime" Under Sharia Law, they admitted to having sex outside of marriage and were punished. It sounds arcaic but for many its a devasting reality. Tradition vs progress. Justice vs vengeance. Shame vs honor. These are the themes that Hashimi explores with her work. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,470 reviews565 followers
August 22, 2017
I enjoyed Hashimi's two previous novels, but found A House Without Windows to be disappointing drudgery with a thin plot and underdeveloped characters.
Profile Image for Farrah Hilton.
16 reviews
March 21, 2016
The more she writes, the better Nadia Hashimi becomes. Of all of her novels, A House Without Windows is my favorite. Over the course of three days, I read the book twice simply because it resonated so much with me. Ms. Hashimi's novels are never the same, and her characters are richly developed, leaving readers moved by their experiences long after the story has ended.

The story of Zeba brings to light the imprisonment of Afghani women for crimes of immorality, particularly "zina" (a category encompassing much more than what it means--sex outside of marriage) a blanket term applied to any behavior or accusation the society deems immoral. This riveting tale of what it means to be a daughter, mother, wife, and friend strikes readers' hearts; the search for the truth and justice in a prison where women's testimonies do not matter brings to light the struggle for progress in modern day Afghanistan.

This is a must read. It is a book that will stay with you for days after you have finished reading it.
Profile Image for Jennifer Blankfein.
384 reviews652 followers
February 24, 2017
It is very exciting to discover an author who’s novels are so compelling, educational and engrossing that I want to read everything they have written. Nadia Hashimi is one of those brilliant and heartfelt authors. Her writing is smart and rich in history and traditions. Over the past few years she has published three fantastic novels, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, When The Moon Is Low, and A House Without Windows. She also wrote a YA book, One Half from the East which came out in Sept. 2016.

In A House Without Windows, Nadia Hashimi shows us how honor and integrity pay a significant role in the lives of Afghan women. She also gives us an indication of how men rule the court system and how women’s prisons are full of modern women who have fallen victim to acts of violence and misfortunes by men. The people of the country have great respect for spiritual leaders, sorcerers and special powers/magic-like spells, and family honor is of utmost importance and runs deep. Even though this novel takes place in current times it feels old fashioned with superstition a real part of the belief system of the people. I love a mysterious crime and a court case. When it is set in a tradition rich, male driven country with multiple, strong women characters with flaws and good intent, I am in heaven!

Nadia Hashimi’s writing is brilliant and A House Without Windows, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell and When The Moon Is Low all take the reader on intense, soul seeking journeys with strong, determined and deep thinking women of Afghanistan.
Profile Image for Kimmery Martin.
Author 3 books1,057 followers
August 21, 2016
You can read my interview with Nadia Hashimi (and other my reviews and author interviews) here: kimmerymartin.com

I loved A House without Windows, which is the story of a woman accused of murder in Afghanistan.

For some context, here's a brief, brief, brief history of Afghanistan. Okay, I can see you convulsing in the grip of a torturous flashback to 9th grade World Civ, but hold up. Don't click away. I promise this is relevant; it will take 45 seconds to read and then you’ll be able to contribute semi-knowledgeably at dinner parties whenever somebody starts yammering on about the geopolitics of the Middle East.

Afghanistan is ancient. Wikipedia says urbanized culture has existed in the area since around 3000 BCE, but evidence exists of prehistorical human inhabitants dating all the way back to 52,000 years ago. Our present-day woes in the area were sagely prophesied by Alexander the Great, who is reported to have quipped that Afghanistan is "easy to march into, hard to march out of,” as he barreled in with his Macedonians in 330 BCE. Since then, a slew of empires have risen in the region —too many to name here— most of them screeching to catastrophic ends. It’s hard to think of another region on earth as bloody, in fact, since one soon-to-be-decimated dynasty constantly replaced another over the course of centuries. Eventually the Brits got involved, leading to three Anglo-Afghan wars and the independence of modern-day Afghanistan in 1920, followed by the Soviet invasion, the slithery, insidious control of the Taliban, and finally the current deployment of US-led troops.

And throughout all of this, which demographic group was NOT causing the bloodshed? If you guessed ‘women,’ congratulations: you’re right. I don't know what exactly the ladies were doing back in Alexander’s day, but they haven't had an easy time of it in the modern era: it’s pretty much the first place that comes to mind when you think of the oppression of women. But that’s a tricky conceptualization, especially for Westerners. We tend to get this mental image of shroud-clad ciphers, drifting around deferring to their men obsequiously and silently, with nary a trace of personality or opinion or even humanity, really.

But people are people everywhere. Women are funny or bold or valiant or crazy in Afghanistan, just like everywhere else. Hashimi’s book brings her female characters to brilliant, vivid life. Her protagonist, Zeba, narrowly escapes brutal retribution from a mob when her husband is found dead with hatchet buried in his head, but she is strangely reluctant to participate in her own defense. Separated from her children and thrown into prison, she keeps to herself even as her lively cellmates try to draw her out, and as her attorney--imported from the U.S.-- struggles valiantly to understand the mystery behind her husband's death.

I love books that truly transport you to places you cannot experience for yourself, and this book does that: there is so much detail, so much explicit realism. You want to know what it’s like to be a woman in an Afghan village, accused of the murder of her husband? You want to experience prison (well of course you don’t, not actually, but bear with me here) for sharing a meal with a non-relative male or for running away from your abusive family? How about being stoned to death for a small social infraction, or for being raped by some entitled fool from your village?

These things are deeply unpleasant to contemplate but this stuff actually happens to our Afghan sisters. We need to know that this is part of our world. Read this book.

I did receive an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Sarah.
80 reviews
December 10, 2017
After reading one of Nadia Hashimi’s other novels I couldn’t wait until I got my hands on another one, and this one did not disappoint. I found this one to be poignant in the sense that it portrayed not only the depths of a mother’s love but also the constraints of a traditional society. As a woman it was hard for me to read the reasons why the women were in jail with Zeba. At the same time it was easy for me to relate to the each of the women; I could picture myself making the same decisions if I was in their shoes.

In regards to the overall plot, I found that it picked up halfway through the book. I will be honest in saying that at times the concept of “magic” in the book became too much and I found myself skimming some of the pages. Nevertheless I would recommend this book to anyone interested in traditional cultures and how it not only impacts the individual but everyone within their society.
Profile Image for Joy D.
1,902 reviews220 followers
November 27, 2022
Murder mystery set in Afghanistan and focused on the issues faced by women. The accused is the victim’s wife, Zeba, the only person at home at the time of the murder, but the evidence is solely circumstantial. The police investigation was not carried out with an eye to forensics. The word of a woman means very little and in court, even the judge wants her to say she did it just to move on with other cases. Zeba’s lawyer is a young Afghan educated in the US. When he asks her what happened, she keeps quiet for fear her children will suffer. Her husband’s family assumes she is guilty.

As Zeba waits in prison, she learns the backstories of her fellow female prisoners. They are accused of all sorts of “crimes” that would never be considered such if enacted by a man. A sub-plot involves the personal life of the lawyer, who has avoided marriage in order to focus on his work. The author is an Afghan American. She does a wonderful job of balancing the story so that it does not feel like a litany of misery. In the end there is a small ray of hope. I appreciated this book and look forward to reading more from this author.
Profile Image for ♥ Marlene♥ .
1,687 reviews132 followers
Shelved as 'couldn-t-finish'
September 29, 2016
Nah. I am bored out of my mind.

Normally when I read a good book I love once I can dive back in the story but now heading to bed I was dreading that I still was reading this book. So slow and such nonsense. Plus I am also angered by the people in this book. Men and women what they care most about is their reputation. What others think of them that is most important thing of life and terrible things are done to keep that name clean. That being said I wish something had happened in this book because at least there was a story. I am sure that after reading 75% the book would get better but why should I waste my time reading this while there are so many good books still to be read.

Helmettes "I Don't Care What People Say"
Profile Image for Deanne.
921 reviews3 followers
September 7, 2016
Nadia Hashimi is no doubt an amazing writer. Unfortunately, as much as I loved certain passages and the relationship between the characters, the story itself was as slow as molasses. A bit over halfway I ended up skimming through to the end.
Profile Image for Chaitra.
3,400 reviews
November 3, 2016
I have not read a book by Nadia Hashimi before, although I can't imagine why. It's not an enjoyable book, A House Without Windows. It's a brutal thing, and frustrating to one who hasn't experienced the kind of stifling experience the women in Afghanistan experience.

Honor killings exist in India. But it's not supported by the law, and it's shocking when it does occur. No woman is lawfully put in prison because she stepped out with a man before being married, or even that she worked late hours with her colleagues. This book and its setting is shocking, because it's hard to understand that honor is a one way street, it's only attached to one thing and one thing only, and that Dari hasn't even got a word for rape because maybe they don't recognize it since they think it can't occur without a woman's consent. There are backward people everywhere, people who want women back in the kitchen where they want them to be, but luckily a legal system based on such things isn't a very common occurrence.

This was a hard read. Not just because so many of these ladies in the jail were actually happy to be there because their home lives were so terrible that they felt safer in the jail, but also because of the silliness of the crimes they were caught and imprisoned for, and the automatic branding of a woman as a culprit, no matter what the situation, no matter what her age. Because zina. I hope it changes.
Profile Image for Krista.
1,368 reviews544 followers
February 11, 2017
Marriage was a sport. One point for love, one point for hate. The heart kept score.

A House Without Windows was urged on me as a fine example of social justice fiction (by someone who says she never reads nonfiction and therefore found this to be really informative and moving), and while I'd certainly agree that shining a light on injustice around the world is an admirable goal, I expect a novel to also have well-developed characters and plot, along with strong sentence-by-sentence writing, and I just don't think this book rises to the level of a “great” novel. On the other hand, if this book does affect other readers – and especially if it prompts even one person to try and change the world for the better – then it has value beyond the page.

Set in a small village in Afghanistan, the book starts with a violent crime: when three young children return home from school, they find their father dead and their mother, Zeba, covered in blood. Frozen with shock and fear, Zeba is unable to explain what happened, and she is quickly arrested for murder and sent away to a women's prison. This soon feels like a McGuffin (and I understand I'm really stretching the definition of that term) because while Zeba's situation isn't black and white (apparently even she isn't really sure what happened in the courtyard that fateful day), she meets dozens of women who explain to her the “moral” infractions that they are serving long prison sentences for: meeting a male coworker for an unsupervised picnic; becoming pregnant from a rape; running away from physically abusive parents. While Zeba's particular case and its resolution is the heart of the book, it feels like these other women – and the helpless picture that they paint for the lives of all Afghani women – is really the point; but isn't their plight actually kind of well known? Several times, characters note a real case from the nightly news, and those cases made the news here, too.

A woman's worth was measured, with scientific diligence, in blood. A woman was only as good as the drops that fell on her wedding night, the ounces she bled with the turn of the moon, and the small river she shed giving her husband children. Some women were judged most ultimately, having their veins emptied to atone for their sins or for the sins of others.

Interspersed with Zeba's story, we also meet Yusef: born in Afghanistan, his family fled to America when he was a boy. After studying Law and becoming interested in social justice issues, Yusef decided to return to the country of his birth to represent hopeless causes; he becomes Zeba's lawyer. I appreciate the use of this character to see behind the curtain of Afghani jurisprudence – and especially as he is both an insider and an outsider – and this character proves how hard it is to apply Afghanistan's new legal code at the village level. On the other hand, subplots about his love life felt peripheral.

Yusef was young and inexperienced, she knew. He had noble intentions, the noblest intentions Zeba had ever seen, but intentions accomplished little in Afghanistan. Guns, money, power, pride – these were the currencies of the country. That glint in his eye the last time they'd spoken had only made him look pathetic to his client – like a child who'd spotted a toy in a minefield.

A House Without Windows is partially a domestic novel as we learn all about Zeba's extended family as well as her marriage, and as for her dead husband, Kamal, we only learn about him in retrospect; all tell, no show:

Kamal was one of those men who needed to exert his strength to reassure himself he was capable of something. He needed to see his wife and children react to his presence to confirm he was in command. A man's might was right because no one had ever told him otherwise. And Kamal had secrets, filthy shameful secrets. When he was inebriated, or angry or preoccupied, he was quite able to forgive his sins. But there were rare moments, small awakenings of a deeper conscience he didn't much care to face. In these moments, Kamal's face would flush with shame, his spine would hunch with horror. It was unbearable. Kamal could not tolerate anyone pointing out even the smallest of his shortcomings because he sensed that it would undo him completely, in the way that pulling on a stray piece of yarn just so can turn a sweater back into a pile of string.

And for that matter, much information is shared (by the semi-omniscient narrator) in a clunky manner:

For a family to give up their claim on a girl was unusual, even if the government had outlawed the practice of baad, giving daughters to resolve disputes, between families, in 2009.

Just as I was beginning to find the story touching (as Zeba finds some unexpected support), there were some lame coincidences that unraveled everything for me. So, I didn't like anything about the plot, I didn't believe in the characters, didn't buy the ending, and as I hope the quotes I selected show, while the writing isn't terrible, it isn't really art either. I applaud author Nadia Hashimi (born in Afghanistan, raised in America where she became a physician) for shining a spotlight on what is obviously an unjust system, and I handily admit there is value in all such efforts.
Profile Image for Khansa alsanea.
343 reviews77 followers
February 18, 2023
"صارت تلك المقاطع طريقة نساء شيل ماهتاب في قتل الوقت. بعضهن كّن بارعات، وأخريات واعدات." تلك النسوة اللاتي قبعن بالسجن لمجرد أنهن نسوة ليس إلا في مجتمع أفغاني ذكوري صرف، فـ "إن كانت المرأة قد تسجن أو تجلد لرؤيتها مع رجل، فبالطبع ستعدم إن قتلته."

قراءتي الثانية لـ نادية هاشمي وكانت مختلفة كثيراً عما سبق وقرأته عن الأدب الأفغاني فهنا الحديث عن ظلم المرأة الأفغانية لكونها امرأة فقط فهي تتحمل وزر اي خطأ يقع سواءً كانت مظلومة أو مظلومة 🥺.

حكاية زيبا الأم والإبنة والزوجة التي تتهم في بداية الرواية بقتل زوجها كمال وتزج بسجن شيل ماهتاب لحين صدور حكم الإدانة حيث تجد الأمن والاستقرار داخل أسوار السجن، تلتقي بزميلاتها المسجونات وبحكاياتهن المختلفة. وبخط موازي للحكاية نتعرف على يوسف المحامي الشاب الأفغاني الأصل الذي يعمل في منظمة دولية توفر محامين للأفغان والقادم من الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية للدفاع عن المظلومين بعد أن هرب والديه وأسرته من أفغانستان إبان الحرب الروسية الأفغانية.

الرواية مليئة بالحكايات المأساوية المختلفة للنساء المتعلقة بالشرف في افغانستان والظلم الذي يقع عليهم بالرغم من وجود العدالة🤯.

رائعة وتستحق القراءة بكل تأكيد.
1,591 reviews87 followers
November 27, 2017
Set in an Afghani women’s prison populated by those arrested for flirting, running from abusive parents, resisting an arrange marriage, only our main character has a criminal charge recognizable to a Western reader, the murder of her husband with a hatchet. For most, life in this prison is preferable to life at home, more food, less work, more personal autonomy, Turkish soap operas, a beauty salon, friendly gossip. Despite some concern about her four young children thrown on the mercy of her husband’s family, the accused does nothing to cooperate with her American educated attorney. What really happened the day of the murder and will this young idealistic lawyer be able to successfully defend this woman? There were many little actions and reactions of characters that never made sense to me given what I was told of these people and their society. The use of magic spells was off-putting, giving a feel of unreality to a brutally real situation. I had the impression that the author was trying to explain how difficult it is for women and children to live in a social structure defined by codes of honor; the characters, plot and setting were mere backdrop to this larger agenda. This is my second book by this author, neither of which I have loved. 2.5 stars
Profile Image for Mae.
446 reviews9 followers
September 5, 2016
I enjoyed the first two books by this author - found this one less satisfying. Characters did not resonate as well with me and the plot seemed a bit thin and the coincidences to resolve the conflict just too convenient. Set in Afghanistan, Zeba is incarcerated for killing her husband - young lawyer, Yusof hired to defend her - based on the dynamic of the country and Zeba's unwillingness to participate in her own defense as she fears for the ongoing well being of her children her defense is doomed. Then come the details - a mother gifted in the art of witchcraft and her absent father - how does he come into play......all in all did not enjoy this one as much as I expected I would.
Profile Image for Kateryna.
481 reviews85 followers
September 29, 2017
Set in Afghanistan, this is a story of Zeba - a wife and mother, accused of killing her husband, and Yosef - a young lawyer who tries to defend Zeba against all odds. I enjoyed Hashimi's two previous novels, but found this one to be disappointing. I don't think the book should have been more than half as long as it was. I was really quite bored throughout much of it. Chapters were repetitive. The plot was not convincing. The ending was relatively satisfying, but could have been wrapped up a lot quicker. Still think Hashimi is a good writer and I'll keep an eye out for her next books.
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