Burqas Are Awesome

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A Book Review of Honor and Polygamy by Omar Farhad

(Find it on Amazon here.)

Okay, burqas aren’t exactly awesome, but…read on.

As soon as I read the description of “Honor and Polygamy” by Omar Farhad, I knew I wanted to read it—the subject matter was exactly the opposite of what I habitually read, and I’ve been making an effort to branch out. In the past, I would have turned a distasteful frown, like a driver annoyed by all the rubber-neckers ogling a wreck on the interstate, to a story about a man forced into a polygamist union in Afghanistan.

I am so glad I didn’t.

Like many Americans, I knew next to nothing about life in Afghanistan apart from sensational news snippets on the unpopular war. I admit I wasn’t interested in learning more either, the burqa being so offensive to me that it was hard to see past that particular part of the Afghan culture. But, for some reason I just had to know how the author was going to pull it off. How was Farhad going to make me believe that an American man was forced to marry a second wife, out of honor? After reading a couple of pages, I thought I had made a mistake at first. The spare writing style was so different from my favored literature, so masculine.

But, I couldn’t stop—I was hooked! The best part about Farhad’s prose is his use of the present tense to create suspense, right from the beginning. The story starts in New York and since I knew the main character, Nick Blake, was somehow going to end up marrying an Afghan woman against his will, I was so eager to get to the action that I found myself appreciating the straight-forward language used. No flowery, poetic passages steeped in imagery. No long conversations or hefty descriptions of characters. I was supplied with only what was needed to move the story along. Quickly. However, by the middle of the book I found myself with a strong sense of place and I was surprised how connected I felt to the characters. I even…wait for it…began to understand why a woman would want to wear a burqa.

I’m grateful to this author for bringing the fascinating land and culture of Afghanistan into my mind and heart—an intimacy I never would’ve imagined. Omar Farhad’s tale had me hoping against hope for a happy ending, as implausible as that would’ve been. I was willing to make the leap. I had fallen in love with the characters, indeed with the culture itself. Unfortunately, we all know there is no happy ending when it comes to Afghanistan.

At least not yet.


—Sarah Wathen

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