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If you liked "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini, you might enjoy these other titles that also offer lots of plot twists and turns and a sprinkling of history:
Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje
This book is set in the Sri Lankan Civil War of the 1980s and 1990s. Anil Tissera is a native Sri Lankan who left her home at 18 and returned 15 years later as a forensic anthropologist working with an international human rights fact-finding mission. Although she had done similar work digging up victims of the killing squads in the Guatemalan Civil War, Anil finds that the work is quite different when it is in her own country.
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Set in 1935 England at the dysfunctional country estate of the Tallis family, it is the story of love, loss, and lies. Thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis lets her formidable imagination and creative talent wander in the wrong direction and must later live with her guilt and attempt to atone for her sins. Plenty of World War II history. Also excellent on audio book.
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
Here is fictional proof, at least, that literature can sustain the soul during difficult times. When two city boys are sent to be re-educated at a mountain village camp during Mao's Cultural Revolution, they despair of ever being able to continue their lives and their educations. When they meet the little Chinese seamstress, the most beautiful creature either has ever seen, AND discover a hidden stash of strictly forbidden Western literature, translated into Chinese, they feel they must have a gold mine on their hands. If they can just read Balzac, won't they make it through their ordeal?
The Blood of Flowers: A Novel by Anita Amirrezvani
"In 17th-century Persia, a 14-year-old woman believes she will be married within the year. But when her beloved father dies, she and her mother find themselves alone and without a dowry. With nowhere else to go, they are forced to sell the brilliant turquoise rug the young woman has woven to pay for their journey to Isfahan, where they will work as servants for her uncle, a rich rug designer in the court of the legendary Shah Abbas the Great. Despite her lowly station, the young woman blossoms as a brilliant designer of carpets, a rarity in a craft dominated by men. But while her talent flourishes, her prospects for a happy marriage grow dim. Forced into a secret marriage to a wealthy man, the young woman finds herself faced with a daunting decision: forsake her own dignity, or risk everything she has in an effort to create a new life." Publisher's Description
Caravans by James Michener
"James Michener has a way with a good historical yarn, and this book is no exception. The protaganist, a young State Department worker, is sent deep into Afghanistan to find out what happened to a strong-willed young woman who married an Afghan engineer, returned to his country, and soon after dropped out of sight. What with the extreme cultural differences, particularly as regards women, her family is concerned that something terrible may have happened to her. Mark Miller's job is to trace her whereabouts and rescue her if possible. Funny thing is, he is the one who is being sucked into the miasma of an ancient world struggling to be reborn into the 20th century.
This book was written in the 1960s, recalling events of the late 1940s. In that way it is a historical book. The author's notes tell of the modernization of Afghanistan after the novel's events, how the women took an active part in political campaigning and got rid of the trappings of medievalism. Now, of course, we know the society went back to its hyper-conservative ways under the leadership of the mullahs. As it happens, Michener's Caravans may have quite a lot to teach us about the underlying societal conflicts that still remain in today's Afghanistan." - reviewed by staff member Virginia Johnson
Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber
In this haunting and fanciful story about an Iraqi community in Los Angeles. Sirine, who is half-Arab and a chef at a Lebanese restaurant, falls hopelessly in love with Han, an Iraqi exile and professor at a local university. Abu-Jaber weaves into the novel a fanciful folktale of a mother's search for her wandering son, told by Sirine's uncle-turned-surrogate-father.
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers--a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village--will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Set in Kerala, India, during the late 1960s , this story of a shattered family begins with the funeral of young Sophie Mol, the English cousin of the novel's protagonists, Rahel and her fraternal twin brother, Estha. In a circuitous and suspenseful narrative, Roy reveals the family tensions that led to the twins' behavior on the fateful night that Sophie drowned.
A God Strolling in the Cool of the Evening by Mario de Carvalho
"Winner of the 1996 Pegasus Prize for Literature, this fiction presents a fascinating tale of political rivalries, war, religion, philosophy, and social unrest in the twilight of the Roman Empire. It is a timeless tale of a good man struggling to maintain sense and order in his public and private lives and to uphold justice as he understands it." - summary from the catalog
House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubois III
In this page-turning, breathtaking novel, the characters will walk off the page and into your life. And a small house will seem like the most important piece of territory in the world.On a road crew in California, a former colonel in the Iranian Air Force under the Shah yearns to restore his family's dignity. When an attractive bungalow comes available on county auction for a fraction of its value, he sees a great opportunity for himself, his wife, and his children. But the house's
former owner, a recovering alcoholic and addict down on her luck, doesn't see it that way, nor does her lover, a married cop driven to extremes to win her love and get her house back. House of Sand and Fog is a narrative triumph in which a traditional immigrant success story and a modern love story are turned upside down with brutal, heartrending consequences. It is an American tragedy, and a shockingly true picture of the country we live in today.
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai.
"In a crumbling, isolated house at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas, lives an embittered judge who wants only to retire in peace from a world he has found too messy for justice, when his orphaned granddaughter, Sai, arrives on his doorstep. The judge's cook watches over her distractedly, for his thoughts are claimed by his son, Biju, who is hopscotching from one gritty New York restaurant to another, trying to stay a step ahead of the INS on an elusive search for a green card that "was not even green."" "When an Indian-Nepali insurgency in the mountains interrupts Sai's exploration of the many incarnations and facets of a romance with her Nepali tutor, and causes their lives to descend into chaos, they are forced to consider their colliding interests. The cook witnesses the hierarchy being overturned and discarded. The judge must revisit his past, his own journey and role in their intertwining histories."
Jacob's Ladder: A Story of Virginia During The War by Donald McCaig
The Publisher's Weekly review of this sweeping novel said, "Imagine a collaboration between Shelby Foote and Margaret Mitchell and you get some idea of the historical irony and passion that inform this fine literary novel, which captures the full sweep of the Civil War in Virginia. In 1934, a WPA writer interviewing 90-year-old Marguerite Omohundru, former Richmond bank president, uncovers the dark secrets of a prominent Virginia family." My book club had a good discussion after reading this story of a family betrayal.
The Last Life by Claire Messud
In a story set between North Africa, France, and New England, the Algerian LaBasse family's secrets begin to unravel--a trigger-happy grandfather, a mother who pretended to be French, and a bastard child.
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged marriage, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts.An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American
and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world.
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
"In the city of Enugu, Nigeria, fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother, Jaja, lead a privileged life. Their Papa is a wealthy and respected businessman; they live in a beautiful house; and they attend an exclusive missionary school. But, as Kambili reveals in her tender-voiced account, their home life is anything but harmonious. Her father, a fanatically religious man, has impossible expectations of his children and wife, and severely punishes them if they're less than
perfect. Home is silent and suffocating. When Kambili's loving and outspoken Aunty Ifeoma persuades her brother that the children should visit her in Nsukka, Kambili and Jaja take their first trip away from home. Once inside their Aunty Ifeoma's flat, they discover a whole new world. Books cram the shelves, curry and nutmeg permeate the air, and their cousins' laughter rings throughout the house. Jaja learns to garden and work with his hands, and Kambili secretly falls in love with a young charismatic priest. When a military coup threatens to destroy the country and Kambili and Jaja return home changed by their newfound freedom, tension within the family escalates."--BOOK JACKET.
The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar
Umrigar's schematic novel (after Bombay Time) illustrates the intimacy, and the irreconcilable class divide, between two women in contemporary Bombay. Bhima, a 65-year-old slum dweller, has worked for Sera Dubash, a younger upper-middle-class Parsi woman, for years: cooking, cleaning and tending Sera after the beatings she endures from her abusive husband, Feroz. Sera, in turn, nurses Bhima back to health from typhoid fever and sends her granddaughter Maya to college. Sera recognizes their affinity:
"They were alike in many ways, Bhima and she. Despite the different trajectories of their lives-circumstances... dictated by the accidents of their births-they had both known the pain of watching the bloom fade from their marriages." But Sera's affection for her servant wars with ingrained prejudice against lower castes. The younger generation-Maya; Sera's daughter, Dinaz, and son-in-law, Viraf-are also caged by the same strictures despite efforts to throw them off. In a final plot twist, class allegiance combined with gender inequality challenges personal connection, and Bhima may pay a bitter price for her loyalty to her employers. At times, Umrigar's writing achieves clarity, but a narrative that unfolds in retrospect saps the book's momentum. Publisher's Weekly
The Story of Zahra: A Novel by Hanan Al-Shaykh
"Banned in several Arab nations, this rich tale mesmerizes with its frank sexuality and scenes of war-torn Beirut. Zahra is a misfit mistreated by her mother, who brings her along to secret meetings with a lover, and by her father, a harsh disciplinarian who reacts angrily to her habit of picking at her pimpled face. She leaves her parents to stay with an uncle who has fled to Africa to escape being arrested for political activity. When his affection for her grows sexual, Zahra agrees to an unsuccessful marriage with his friend Majed. Eventually, she returns to Beirut, where "the war was like a weevil that had found its way into the heart of a huge bag of white flour and settled there," and begins meeting secretly to have sex with a man who may or may not be a rooftop sniper. A rotating first-person narrative gives everyone a voice; Zahra's is the most striking, but each character has memorable moments, as when Majed describes his adolescent arousal while reading Jane Eyre and seeing an illustration of the heroine kissing Mr. Rochester." Publisher's Weekly
Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra
Set in Afghanistan during the Taliban's rule, this novel features Atiq; his sickly wife, Mousarrat; and an educated woman, Zunaira, who winds up in prison and is sentenced to death for the accidental killing of her husband, Mohsen. Atiq is one of the fortunate citizens who, because of his status as a veteran in the Russian war, is still useful to the Taliban as a jailer of moral transgressors. Zunaira's story, in particular, dramatizes the plight of the countless Afghanis who endured the prolonged medieval code of conduct when the Taliban was in power.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
The author of The Kite Runner returns to Afghanistan for his second book.
ary: Mariam and Laila are born a generation apart but are brought together by war and fate. Together they endure the dangers surrounding them and discover the power of both love and sacrifice.
The Warlord's Son by Dan Fesperman
A burned-out war correspondent hoping for a last hurrah in Afghanistan, Skelly arrives on the Afghan border just as American bombs begin falling on the ruling Taliban. Seeking the scoop of a lifetime as witness to the capture of “the biggest fish of them all,” he links up with an exiled warlord's quixotic expedition. Guiding Skelly's way is Najeeb, a tribal Pakistani with his own objective–U.S. visas for his girlfriend and himself, promised by Pakistani intelligence if he acts as an informant.
Women of Sand and Myrrh by Hanan al-Shaykh
"The realities of life in the gilded cage for contemporary Arab women--in the first US publication from Lebanese-born writer al- Shaykh. Though imbued with an urgent sense of lives blighted and talents wasted, al-Shaykh--in telling her four women protagonists' stories--makes her points by accumulating illustrative detail rather than launching a polemic." Kirkus Reviews