Book Review: No More Mulberries by Mary Smith

One little white lie can change your entire life, as Miriam learns when she invents an appointment as an excuse to leave a party early. It leads to her moving from Scotland –leaving friends and family – and beginning a new life in Afghanistan.

Although life in rural Afghanistan, living in the high mountains of Hazara Jat, is tough Miriam has no regrets. At ‘home’ she always felt a misfit but here, using her midwifery and nursing skills for the benefit of people who have so little, she feels a sense of belonging.

When No More Mulberries opens, though, Miriam’s marriage to her Afghan husband, Dr Iqbal is in trouble. Iqbal has changed, is no longer the man she married, and she doesn’t know what is going wrong or how to begin to put things right. When she accepts a job as translator at a teaching camp for paramedics she hopes time apart will help her to understand what is going wrong in their relationship.

As the story unfolds and Miriam relives her earlier years in Afghanistan including the brutal killing of her first husband, she realises her own actions have contributed to the barriers between herself and Iqbal. Iqbal, too, has unresolved issues: he still bears the emotional scars from being ostracised as a child with leprosy and has experienced past loves and losses.

No More Mulberries is not only the story of Miriam and Iqbal; it provides an authentic insight into daily life for ordinary Afghan people through the years from the Soviet occupation to the rise of Taliban. I lived for several years in Afghanistan and one of the main reasons for writing the novel was to allow readers to ‘meet’ these ordinary men and women and realise the media portrayal of them and their country is not the whole picture.

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