By Rukhsana Khan
Young Jameela is determined to follow her mother Mor’s advice: “If you can’t be beautiful, you should at least be good.” Growing up in a post-Taliban Afghan orphanage, shy, sensitive Jameela finds this easier said than done, especially since she’s not really an orphan. Her father is alive, but her mother, Mor, has just sickened and died. the rest of Jameela’s family was wiped out when bombs fell on a wedding party they were all attending.
In response to his loss, Jameela’s father sells the family possessions and rushes to the big city of Kabul to seek his fortune. She barely has time to say visit Mor’s grave and say goodbye, let alone pack. Once there, her father marries a boorish widow out of convenience and greed. When the new “mother” is unable to get along with Jameela, openly despising her country clothes, manners and cleft lip, Jameela’s father takes her to the local marketplace and abandons her. Jameela is taken in temporarily by a kind butcher. Unable to manage another mouth to feed, he reluctantly gives in to his wife’s demands and takes Jameela to an orphanage, where she meets some unlikely allies who help her find hope, courage, and the will to pursue a future that’s not just better, but “good.”
An absorbing story with vivid imagery and rich, composite characters, Wanting Mor leaves readers wanting more. The author paints word pictures of village life in Afghanistan and bustling Kabul that are so colorful, readers can almost taste the dust and feel the jostling crowds. She also peppers her prose with Afghan verbiage and colloquialisms, bringing a sense of gravitas and authenticity into this well-rounded story. A glossary is included.
Wanting Mor is based on real events in post-Taliban Afghanistan. A worthwhile read.