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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lipstick in Afghanistan...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.

Wow.  What a remarkable novel. I liked Elsa and her spunk and strength.  I loved Parween and her strength and devotion to her own country and to helping the women of Afghanistan, even at her own peril.  The story is beautifully descriptive.

Women connect with each other, no matter the country and their personal circumstances in life and the way that lipstick is woven through the story is clever and adds to the poignancy.  I can how this novel will appeal to book groups. I so wish for a more satisfying conclusion to Elsa and Mike's relationship.

I am not an aid worker, nor am I a nurse.  I have never traveled any place remotely dangerous, unless you count surviving a taxi ride in Rome.  I don't know how accurate or inaccurate the details of this story are, but I do know that it is a fascinating story.  Some readers will want to be aware of mild, but not gratuitous, use of the F word.

The story is fictional, but people and experiences are based on the author's own experiences as a nurse in Afghanistan.  A fascinating, poignant story about the power of friendship.

Thanks to Simon & Shuster for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Roberta Gately here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 12/10

* * * *
4/5 Stars


  1. I'm glad to see you enjoyed this so much. I do agree with you that women the world over can relate to each other even when our lives are so different. I'm adding this book to my wish list.

  2. I too have a review coming up for this. Thanks for your thoughts!

  3. I've read so many good things about this book -- I do need to pick this one up. I love to read about cultures that I am not familiar with -- great review!!

  4. I really liked this book. I'm not sure why she need to add a couple F bombs??? But overall I enjoyed it.