Thanks to Gallery Books for sending me a copy of this to review.
About the Book
Roberta Gately's lyrical and authentic debut novel—inspired by her own experiences as a nurse in third world war zones—is one woman's moving story of offering help and finding hope in the last place she expected.
Gripped by haunting magazine images of starving refugees, Elsa has dreamed of becoming a nurse since she was a teenager. Of leaving her humble working-class Boston neighborhood to help people whose lives are far more difficult than her own. No one in her family has ever escaped poverty, but Elsa has a secret weapon: a tube of lipstick she found in her older sister's bureau. Wearing it never fails to raise her spirits and cement her determination. With lipstick on, she can do anything—even travel alone to war-torn Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11.
But violent nights as an ER nurse in South Boston could not prepare Elsa for the devastation she witnesses at the small medical clinic she runs in Bamiyan. As she struggles to prove herself to the Afghan doctors and local villagers, she begins a forbidden romance with her only confidant, a charming Special Forces soldier. Then, a tube of lipstick she finds in the aftermath of a tragic bus bombing leads her to another life-changing friendship. In her neighbor Parween, Elsa finds a kindred spirit, fiery and generous. Together, the two women risk their lives to save friends and family from the worst excesses of the Taliban. But when the war waging around them threatens their own survival, Elsa discovers her only hope is to unveil the warrior within. Roberta Gately's raw, intimate novel is an unforgettable tribute to the power of friendship and a poignant reminder of the tragic cost of war.
I absolutely loved this book. I loved it so much that I can't think of the right words to describe it, at least not any that would do it justice. The story was so heartwarming, sad, happy, and touching. It was so sad and yet was filled with so much joy.
When I started reading it I didn't really expect the story that unfolded. At first I didn't understand the whole thing with the lipstick, but as the story progressed it was such a great way of tying the characters to each other.
The story jumps a between Elsa and Parween until their lives cross. The tragedy that follows each of these women seems almost unbearable, but yet they've pulled through it and made the most of their lives. Both women are so strong and give all they have to help others. Even putting their lives on the line to help those in need.
The romance that blooms throughout the book is such a great addition to the story. With so much devastation and sadness in the story adding the different romances kept the story enjoyable. Without the romance added in the story would have been so full of grief and sorrow that it would have almost been oppressive to read.
Overall I would say this is one of the best books I've ever read. Gately's writing is amazing. Her ability to tell a story like this is nothing short of amazing. It really makes you think. And it shows that just because people are surrounded by hatred, war, and fathom doesn't mean you have to fill your heart with those things. Happiness is what you make of it and these characters really made me realize that.
Lipstick in Afghanistan