I am excited to introduce author Mary Smith. Let me start off by saying that Mary Smith is a such a kind woman-she is always going out of her way to support fellow writers- so thank you!
I am pretty excited about reading No More Mulberries; my schedule is crazy so I haven’t had the chance to yet–but it is on my reading list. Not only is Mary Smith Scottish (and I’ll admit I think Scottish people are basically the coolest people ever .. and hope to visit Scotland one day) … but the main character is also Scottish-born (so I can picture the accent in my head while I read…yes, I’m a bit of geek!)… But in all seriousness, once I read the blurb I realized this book is right up my alley. “Instead, she must focus on helping women desperate for medical care and has little time to think about her failing marriage.”-I can just tell I’ll be emotionally invested in this book and what happens to the characters in Afghanistan. With today’s political climate, I think it is important for people to read about cultures from outside their own ‘sphere’ – to broaden their view and understanding of people around the world to help break down the divisive walls between people. And not only has Mary set this story up so beautifully, but it also includes a love story, which is (of course)-something I love! Please read the review after the blurb to see firsthand what an impact this book has had on one of her readers.
Blurb for NO MORE MULBERRIES:
Scottish-born midwife, Miriam loves her work at a health clinic in rural Afghanistan and the warmth and humour of her women friends in the village, 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 and she fears he regrets taking on a widow with a young son, who seems determined to remain distant from his stepfather. When Miriam acts as translator at a medical teaching camp she hopes time apart might help her understand the cause of their problems. Instead, she must focus on helping women desperate for medical care and has little time to think about her failing marriage. When an old friend appears, urging her to visit the village where once she was 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 horribly wrong.
Her husband, too, must deal with issues from his own past – from being shunned by childhood friends when he contracted leprosy to the loss of his first love.
*Great review of No More Mulberries *
Oh my, what a superb read, at least , for me . This is one of the best books I have read this year as it really touched my heart. It is the story of Miriam, a Scottish midwife who used to be called Margaret but who changed her name upon marrying Jawad, and Afghan doctor and converting to Islam (her choice). It is the love story of these two soul mates, their visions for a country torn apart, their hopes to bring hope and changes to a little village in the Afghan mountains and her devastation when he died. It is about her subsequent marriage to Iqbal, also an Afghan doctor, for more practical reasons than real love, to go back to Afghanistan to be near the grave of the one she truly loved. It is the story of Iqbal, who loves Miriam but deep down thinks that he cannot compete with Jawad’s memory and is, one way, haunted by his ghost, as he is haunted by his own past. It is the story of the struggles, challenges but also happiness and understanding of marriage between two people from different cultures. Bridging the gap between these two cultures that I could totally relate to, myself being married to a man from one of the Maghreb countries. It is a breath of fresh air, where men are not described as violent and terrorists, but described very realistically, like Iqbal, as being torn in two, like not losing face in front of others and to show that one can ‘keep under control’ his foreign wife but also feeling bad about it. Men who are not used to express their emotions due to centeries of belief that ”men don’t cry or show weakness”. I could relate to Myriam’s exasperation as not having her ‘me’ time, as many people ”back home” cannot imagine for one instant the need to be alone. Also, her fight with the ignorance and superstitions of people, who do not trust modern doctors but think an injection will cure everything. It is the story of people who may not have television, hot water and have to make with medieval toilets outside but who gets their news faster than BBC world service. All what Mary Smith writes is so true and realistic, I had to laugh when Myriam recalled how women would look at her and ask her so many intrusive and very personal questions that in the West, would be considered so rude, but there, it is just a way to show you they are interested in you and welcoming you. No More Mulberries is very emotionally charged. Especially when Miriam recalls her time with Jawad. You really feel her pain and her anguish, especially as she knows he has been killed in dubious circumstances. You can feel Iqbal’s internal turmoil and his love for Myriam. In the end, both have to make a decision that will change all their lives… I recommend No More Mulberries to anyone with an open mind because it will brush aside many misconceptions. Oh, there is plenty of violence and a political background when Taliban take Kabul, when girls schools are closed and women prevented to work, but this is not the main topic of this book. It is simply a life story, a love story, a vision to change a little part of the world, and a need for closure. A story where life is hard, especially for women as in many villages, there is no healthcare, no clinics and where it is very hard to educate them to change their ways. A simple but oh so beautiful story that will stay with me for a very, very long time. My review does not do it justice at all, due to lack of words for expressing how I really loved that story.
SPECIAL EXCERPT from Chapter 10
‘Miriam-jan, it’s good to see you. Usma sends many salaams. She wanted to come but…’
Interrupting him she said, ‘I’ll send someone to sort out space for the patients in the tent. I’m sorry the accommodation isn’t up to much. They didn’t expect so many patients. They had to find an extra tent. Still, it won’t be for long. I’m sure your group will get appointments tomorrow and then you can…’ She broke off when Ismail caught her hands in his, turning her round to face him. She sighed.
‘Let’s start again, Miriam-jan. I ask how you are and you ask how I am, then I ask about your house and you ask about mine. We’ll hope that neither of us will ever be tired and by then it’ll be easier to talk about other things.’ He released her hands saying, ‘In fact I believe I can see the edges of a smile at last. Now, tell me where is Farid? And don’t you have a daughter now?’
Miriam explained about Farid’s visit to his grandparents and by the time she was telling Ismail about Ruckshana she felt herself begin to relax. Now she could ask him about his family, trying to imagine his sons being old enough to work on the land, how grown up his daughter must be. ‘Oh, it would be wonderful to see everyone again,’ she cried.
‘You can. I meant what I said. I’ve come to take you home.’ Miriam shook her head, but Ismail continued, ‘I’ll find a good horse for you – it’s only one day’s ride to Zardgul.’
‘Ismail, we’re so busy here. You’ve seen the patients, we see hundreds every a day. I can’t…’
‘If Jeanine was willing to let you go for a few days?’
She shook her head. ‘Look, Ismail going to Zardgul is impossible. Let’s drop the subject.’
‘No, Miriam, I can’t. Look,’ he produced from a scruffy envelope a sheet of paper so flimsy from the many times it had been unfolded it was falling apart. ‘The letter you wrote from Pakistan. You promised to come back to Zardgul – if not to live and work, at least to visit us, to hear what happened to Jawad, where…’
‘Things are different now, Ismail.’
‘You mean Dr Iqbal will not bring you to Zardgul.’ It was a statement, not a question. Miriam didn’t reply. ‘Please don’t say no without taking time to think about this chance. It may never come again.’ He looked pleadingly at her. ‘Miriam-jan, there is such sadness in your eyes. You need to come back – not just to keep a promise made to us but one I am sure you made to yourself – and Jawad.’
Miriam looked away, staring unseeingly through the window. Finally, she turned to Ismail standing silently beside her. ‘I have to go now. Eva needs me in the clinic.’ Seeing him about to say something more she whispered, as much to herself as to him, ‘I will think about it.’
Learn More About Mary Smith
Author and journalist Mary Smith lives in South West Scotland. Although she has always written, whether childish short stories, very bad angst-ridden poetry as a teenager, or journals she never really believed she could be an author. And so she did lots of other things instead including fundraising for Oxfam and later working in Pakistan and Afghanistan for health programmes. Those experiences inform much of her writing. Her debut novel, No More Mulberries is set in Afghanistan.
Back in Scotland she found work as a freelance journalist while completing a MLitt in Creative Writing. She still wants to travel more but is having to keep her itchy feet still until her son gets through his medical degree.
She has also written Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women, a narrative non-fiction account about her time in Afghanistan which offers an authentic insight into how ordinary Afghan women and their families live their lives. Her poetry has appeared in many publications and she has one full-length collection, Thousands Pass Here Every Day. Her most recent publication – something totally different – is Dumfries Through Time a local history book done in collaboration with photographer Allan Devlin. The pair are not working on a new title to be published in 2017.
Mary’s other project is to turn her blog, My Dad’s A Goldfish, about caring for her father when he had dementia into a book, which she hopes will be published before the end of 2016. And – finally – she is working on a follow up to No More Mulberries.
Amazon Author Page
Poetry collection: Thousands Pass Here Every Day Non-fiction: Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women