I’ll be honest, I downloaded this book from instafreebie.com* because I fell in love with the cover; isn’t it beautiful? So, when I finally got around to reading it (well over a year since I downloaded it) I couldn’t really remember what it was about… evidently, the book didn’t turn out to be my usual type of read, but I read it in two sittings & did somewhat enjoy it. I also learnt some stuff, which is always a good thing in my opinion.
I read this book as part of my Beat The Backlist Challenge – you can see what other books are on my list for the challenge here.
This book contains discussion of domenstic violence, miscarriage,
racial tension & racist attitudes, as well as suicidal thoughts.
Mohira: A Woman’s Journey is a story about a young, Muslim, Uzbek woman from Kyrgyzstan whom marries an American & subsequently moves to America; unfortunately, Mohira’s excitement about her move to the USA with her new husband eventually proves fruitless, & it falls onto Mohira to make some difficult decisions about her life. Written at times with care, & at others, flippancy, the culture & racial tensions in Kyrgyzstan are explored throughout the story, helping to educate western readers about a topic a lot know nothing about. Well, I knew nothing about Kyrgyzstan before this read & I don’t think I know anyone who follows the politics of the country either.
Okay, so, as I said, I downloaded this book because I liked the look of the cover – am I the only person who feels it looks like the start of a fantasy novel? No? Just me? Oh. Anyway, Mohira: A Woman’s Journey turned out to be a contemporary novel, one that looks at the strength of women & the decisions that they have to make in a world that generally favours men. As well as exploring the details of domestic life in America though, this book also looks into the racial & political issues in Mohira’s home country Kyrgyzstan, & even covers an event that genuinely happened during Barack Obama’s presidency of America.
The first half of this story plays out as a romance gone wrong; it starts on Mohira’s wedding day, the day she ties her life to a man she has met whilst he has been volunteering in her home country (he even helped her to perfect her English speaking skills), & very shortly after we follow the newly weds half way across the planet to sunny America. Mohira & her husband’s life starts off fairly well, but Mohira struggles to adjust to the new culture & often finds a lot of American behaviour to be vulgar & unnecessary; meanwhile, the man who was oh-so-charming in Kyrgyzstan, falls back into his old American habits, & in the author’s mind this means acting like a total douchebag. Yes, I deliberately used a very American insult. Seriously – the author really does paint western men out to be careless & idiotic, & whilst I can agree with this to a certain point, it sometimes felt like Sloan’s writing was being powered by a deep-seated dislike for American men.
Anyway, the story continues with Mohira’s marriage slowly breaking down as argument after increasingly volatile argument breaks out between the couple; in the end Mohira wakes up one morning to divorce papers in the bed next to her, rather than her husband, & Mohira’s whole world crumbles a part. With the help of friend Mohira is able to stay in America, but soon after she moves out from the flat her & her husband shared, political arguments hit a violent peak back in her home country, & Mohira finds herself torn between making a life for herself in the US, & going home to be with her family in a country that isn’t safe anymore.
The second half of the book was definitely more interesting for me as it told a part of a very real story; from what I learnt in the book, Kyrgyzstan is mainly made up of two races – the natives (Kyrgyz) & those whose families originated in Uzbekistan (Uzbeks). During the time that this book is set (2010, from what I can gather) there was a lot of tension between the two groups, which eventually led to some very violent riots breaking out – the internet tells me this is because of a casino fight that escalated between native Uzbeks & Kyrgyz (source).
In the book, Mohira struggles to keep in contact with her family due to power shortages in Kyrgyzstan & we go through a lot of scenes where she is incredibly worried for her family’s safety. Whilst this is going on, Mohira starts to fall out with her best friend – the woman she moved in with in America after her marriage broke down – as Mohira is an Uzbek & her best friend a Kyrgyz. I actually really appreciated the inclusion of Mohira’s best friend at this point as it meant that I was able to see what was happening in Kyrgyzstan from two different perspectives e.g. Mohira feels that the Kyrgyz have always had a deep felt hatred for her race, but her best friend constantly insists that Mohira only see’s things from one perspective.
Eventually, Mohira makes the decision to travel home to Kyrgyzstan so that she can see her family & know that they are definitely safe. The home that Mohira returns to is very different from the one she left though, & despite her family’s wealth protecting them somewhat, a lot of her neighbours (both Uzbek & Kyrgyz) have suffered massive amounts of loss & pain. These scenes were written with a lot of care, & I cried more than once during this part of the story. After spending some quality time with her family & providing what help she can to her grief-struck neighbours, Mohira decides that her place is in America; getting an education so that she can one day go back to Kyrgyzstan & make a real difference.
So, generally, I did really enjoy this book – I learnt some stuff, the writing was highly emotive throughout & I balled my eyes out several times in both the first & second halves of the story. But, there are some things I want to highlight about this book before I end my review. The book starts on Mohira’s wedding day, & due to Mohira being Muslim & her husband not being Muslim, the couple have a wedding that incorporates both cultures – during the wedding scenes more than one comment is made about how the western half of the celebration would be the more enjoyable half & this bothered me because, as far as I’m aware, the author isn’t Muslim & I felt the comments were more than just a little insulting to Muslim traditions.
“The fun bit would come next – a western style ceremony
that would follow after the guests had all arrived.”
Additionally, from the authors surname alone, I don’t think that they’re from central Asia so I’m not sure how people from Kyrgyzstan would feel about the representation of their people in this book – as I said at the start, I knew nothing of this culture before I read the book so I cannot say how well the people & events were described. I would at least hope that the author did their homework on the events before writing the book, but I would love to know what someone from Kyrgyzstan thinks of Mohira & her story.
Finally, I’ve already mentioned that I thought it was strange how anti-western men the author seemed to be throughout the book, but there was also just a general air of western life being crude & less respectable than the life Mohira led back in Kyrgyzstan. Despite this, the book does show that woman don’t need men in order to be happy or successful, & I did appreciate this (it is true after-all).
Undeniably, I had a lot to say about this book, which is somewhat surprising considering the fact that it’s not a book I would usually read; but, it was an interesting read & I did read it in two sittings so something about it must have been captivating enough to keep my interest. If you fancy reading this book for yourself (totally let me know if you do), you can get yourself a copy of the book using the links below:
Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com
*instafreebie.com is a website by which a user can download free books, or book samples, that have been added to the database by the author. In a lot of cases the book is an early piece of work, or the start of a series, & the author hopes to get the attention of new readers via a free download. I don’t use this website much now, as my TBR is majorly out of control, but it’s great for people who cannot afford to buy books but still love to read as there is a great range of stories available.