Published September 2014 by Listening Library|7 hours, 39 minutes
Where I Got It: I got the audio book from audible.com
Genre: YA Contemporary
A novel of love during a time of war by NBC’s Afghanistan correspondant.
Set in present-day Afghanistan, this is the story of two teenagers, one Pashtun and one Hazara, who must fight against their culture, their tradition, their families, and the Taliban to stay together. Told in three rotating perspectives—the two teens and another boy in the village who turns them in to the local Taliban—this novel depicts both the violent realities of living in Afghanistan, as well as the beauty of the land and the cultures there. And it shows that love can bloom in even the darkest of places.
This is an absolute must read not just for teens but for anyone who has lived during the time of America’s War in Afghanistan.
“[The Secret Sky is] a tale of the indomitable Afghan spirit of hope and love. Among the many novels set in Afghanistan for young people or for adults, The Secret Sky stands alone. Unputdownable. Unforgettable.” –Trent Reedy, author of Words in the Dust.
I am so glad I finally listened to The Secret Sky! It was hard to listen to in certain parts, but it was so worth reading, as uncomfortable as it made me at times.
We get 3 different perspectives- Sami and Fatimah, who are the couple, and Sami’s cousin Rashid. If you’re expecting something more swoon-y and romance-ish, this is not that book. This book is the fall-out of a complicated romance. I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to not be able to even talk to a childhood friend, especially one who is a different ethnic group. Even though the book is set in Afghanistan, that was something that is still very familiar.
The one thing that really struck me was how little I actually know about other countries and what life is like there. It’s hard for me to picture a world where two people who care about each other can’t be together, even though I know it’s a thing that happens. This is a village where a boy and a girl talking leads to them being accused of being sinners, and this is what we see in The Secret Sky. This book gives a voice to the people who live this reality, and it really opened my eyes to what it’s like elsewhere in the world.
Rashid was easily the most interesting character in the book. He is angry and jealous and full of hate and hell-bent on punishing Sami, and he’s very caught up in a group who are doing things in the name of God…but really aren’t. As much as I wanted to hate him for the things that happened as a result of his actions, I also believe he did realize that as much as he wanted to punish Fatimah and Sami for their actions, he never wanted it to happen the way it did. I think Rashid’s arc shows (very well) how it’s not limited to one particular religious group or part of the world.
Fatimah’s story was also very compelling, and my heart broke for her. It really did. Sami’s was the least compelling of the three, and even though he is essential in the telling of this story, his, for some reason, was the one I cared the least about.
There are a couple of scenes in particular that were really hard to listen to. I can’t imagine reading it, but listening to it? It really immersed you in what was going on, and those couple of scenes were really heart-breaking. As horrible as some characters were, there were also some really good characters. Like the Mullah who helped Sami and Fatimah. And I was surprised (but also glad) that initially, Fatimah’s dad didn’t want her to be married off to just anyone because they might not treat her well, even though that’s what her mom really wanted for her.
This is a book that is going to stay with me for a long time- it really got me to live in their world for a while, and it’s one of violence and hostility but also one of hope that things will get better. So while the book doesn’t have a true happy ending, it is one that leaves us with hope that things will get better for Sami and Fatimah.
I really liked the narration, especially Delawari’s narration. Something about her narration in particular reminded me of Jessica Lawshe’s narration of A World Away, and while The Wrath And The Dawn was already a book I wanted to read, I specifically want to listen to the audio book because I like Delawari so much as a narrator. Cohen’s narration was fine, and you can distinguish between Rashid’s sections and Sami’s sections, but I don’t know if I like one male narrator narrating two male characters- even though both Rashid and Sami have distinct voices (particularly Rashid), it was hard to see them as different people when one person is narrating two different people.
5 stars. The Secret Sky is such a good look at a world that is very different from the world we know. The audio made me feel like I was immersed in a world that was hard to hear about at times, but I recommend it so very much.