I don’t professionally review books. I read like crazy and when I come across a book I love, I’ll usually let you all know about it. A few weeks ago I was navigating my way around Twitter when I happened to get a new follower. This isn’t unusual, but I do check out all my followers to see who is crazy enough to want to follow what I have to say. The new follower was a woman named Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. No, I didn’t know her. No, I had never heard her name before. But, I did click on her website to find out that she had written a book called The Dressmaker of Khair Khana scheduled to be released on March 15, 2011. Reading the summary of the book gave me enough information to spark my curiosity. It sounded like the kind of book I would pick up if I saw it on a bookstore shelf.
I don’t make a habit of asking people for things (maybe I should more often), but I sent Gayle a message letting her know that if she was interested in having someone review her book, I would love to. Lucky for me, I got an email from her Publisher within hours and my advanced copy of her book arrived on Wednesday.
Now keep in mind I was already in the middle of reading another book, but I can’t get a new book without at least reading the first page just to get an idea if it will be at the top or the bottom of my “books to read” pile. I thought I would just read the first page or two of The Dressmaker and then I would finish my current book and get to this one within a few days. Those first two pages kept me reading… and reading… and reading. And suddenly I found myself doing nothing the rest of the day but reading this book. Yes, it was THAT good.
So what’s it about? In a nutshell it’s the true story of a family of women from Kabul, Afghanistan during the Taliban occupation. The book tells the story of how these educated women survived (and prospered) during the years of sharia law when women were expected to be hidden away from society. Not only did they survive, they created a business that actually employed other women and enabled them all to provide financially for their families.
Much like The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana pulls you into the gritty, fearful, daily life of the people of Afghanistan. Tzemach Lemmon is a talented storyteller who moves the book forward as if you were living there right along side Kamela, the heroine of the story. I fell in love with Kamela, a young woman with a University education who took control of her circumstances instead of letting them take control of her. It is hard to meet her and not want to follow in her footsteps and make a difference in this world.
The characters of the story are fascinating and inspiring and give hope to anyone living in difficult circumstances. Tzemach Lemmon did her research well and part of what was so meaningful to me was reading about her travels to Afghanistan and how she came to choose this topic for her book. The last part of the book, learning about what the characters were up to today, was a special treat.
It’s not an easy feat to take a person’s life and turn that into a cohesive story that reads like a novel. I’ve read many books where the historical background becomes so muddled and inconsequential to the storyline that it reads more like a textbook. Not so with The Dressmaker of Khair Khana. There is just the right amount of political history to add reality and horror to the situation. This book stirs up emotion.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. It’s going on my Favorite Books List.