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.
Ever since 9/11 Afghanistan has been in the news. Unfortunately, the news has rarely been good. The news has been especially bad for women and the place has the reputation as being one of the worst places to be a woman particularly. Lipstick in Afghanistan is the story of an American nurse who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Boston who was moved at the plight of refugees she read about in the news. She volunteered with an aid group and was sent to Afghanistan where she works alongside an Afghani couple, both of whom were physicians. She makes friends with some locals, and with some American soldiers stationed in the area. As readers we see the life of the women of Afghanistan through the eyes of Elsa.
I enjoyed the book, but the ending left me unsatisfied. Perhaps I'm not brave enough, or perhaps I haven't been in a position of just being sick of all the restrictions on me, or maybe I haven't become immune to the horrors of war or the dangers of it, but I just found the climax scene unrealistic. I'm surprised the women put themselves in that position. I'm surprised that things happened like they did. I don't want to say more because I don't want to give any spoilers. Still, the book is a worthy read and I'll give it a B. Thanks to FSB for sending me review copy.