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Sparks Like Stars


Sparks Like Stars

In 1978, Sitara Zamani is a privileged 10-year-old Afghan girl living in Kabul with her mother, her younger brother, and her father, a respected diplomat and personal friend of the president of Afghanistan, Daoud Khan. Their world is blown apart on the night of April 28th when communists assassinate the president and Sitara’s entire family. The soldiers are organized and brutal, but somehow miss seeing the small girl behind a bedroom curtain.

In her fascinating new novel, SPARKS LIKE STARS, Nadia Hashimi traces this young survivor’s life and shows readers the fear, hope, beauty and inequity set against the clouds of international politics.

Only days prior to the coup, Sitara’s father had shown her and her best friend some of the treasures of Ai-Khanoum, an ancient city that is being excavated by the Russians and the French. As the crates were opened at a gala celebrating the rightful return of the treasures, the precious stones and artifacts were toasted: the future of Afghanistan meets its gilded past.

"In her fascinating new novel, SPARKS LIKE STARS, Nadia Hashimi traces this young survivor’s life and shows readers the fear, hope, beauty and inequity set against the clouds of international politics."

Now, as the murders continue in the palace rooms above, Sitara is shoved into a basement alcove; she remembers the code and reopens the crate. She touches the pieces once again and carefully returns all but one: a turquoise and garnet ring that becomes her talisman. Its true value matters little; she keeps it safe, sewing it into the hem of her blouse, hiding it in a box of cotton at a foster home months later when she has escaped and is living in Oklahoma, and later nestling it in a small jewelry box. It never leaves her. Over a number of years and many moments, she touches and retouches the radiant stones to remind herself of Kabul and another life.

As a child, Sitara made a secret comparison from the sparkling nighttime stars to an older sister she never met, Aryana. The baby lived only a few months, but her parents told her of the joy that the beautiful child brought them. Sitara whispers to her “sister in the sky,” and her attachment to Aryana is intensified after her family is gone. In order to safely leave Afghanistan, Sitara must take on Aryana’s identity, and she herself becomes a girl in the sky.

The burden of guilt as a survivor is never far from Sitara’s consciousness and appears at unexpected moments. A grandmother who tries to amuse her by dancing and rolling her hips at the sun earns a smile from Sitara, but she drops her hair over her eyes, hiding her face and her anger. She does not want lightness from the universe or to be told that her loved ones are twinkles of light in the sky. She describes grief as “a tarry substance” in which she is covered from head to toe. Everything sticks to her --- glances, language she doesn’t understand, glimpses of mothers with their children.

When she’s 14 and traveling with her adopted mother, Sitara becomes obsessed with the Romanov family murders of 1919. She spends entire nights tracing the story of Anastasia, the princess who might have survived. She wonders what truth people are searching for with pictures, books, theories and investigations. Had Anastasia lived, would she have wished that she hadn’t?

Sitara steadfastly moves through her American life. She is devoted to hard work and has a brilliant career as an oncological surgeon; her spirit is darkened only by the horrific story she cannot tell. As Sitara pauses and reflects on moments of her childhood that appear, she welcomes a line of poetry or a bit of conversation from her parents. It may be that understanding her own life will be possible.

SPARKS LIKE STARS is the beautifully told story of a young lady who becomes her sister to save her life and whose family never really leaves her side.

Reviewed by Jane Krebs on March 18, 2021

Sparks Like Stars
by Nadia Hashimi

  • Publication Date: February 8, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0063008297
  • ISBN-13: 9780063008298