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Sparks Like Stars    by Nadia Hashimi order for
Sparks Like Stars
by Nadia Hashimi
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2021 (2021)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Nadia Hashimi's Sparks Like Stars quickly grabs a reader's attention and holds it tight throughout. It's the story of an Afghan girl, Sitara Zamani, who grows up in privilege as the daughter of a high government official. Her best friend Neelab is the granddaughter of the Afghan president. At age ten, Sitara's parents and small brother are slaughtered in the 1978 Communist coup.

We see Sitara escape with the help of a guard named Shair. He was involved in the coup - did he kill her family? Sitara takes with her an ancient ring, part of 'treasures of a lost world' stored temporarily in a palace basement safe. That ring becomes the talisman for her survival. Shair risks much to keep Sitara safe and eventually takes her to American diplomat Antonia Shepherd.

Nia and her visiting mother Tilly help Sitara slowly recover from her ordeal. Tilly smuggles her to the United States via Pakistan. She takes the identity of her older sister who was born in America. Adopted by Nia, she becomes Aryana Shepherd and grows up to be a renowned surgeon. When 9/11 happens, she's accosted by racists, who tell her to 'Get the hell out of this country.'

In 2008, Aryana meets an elderly Shair again - as a patient. This encounter becomes a catalyst for her need to find answers, and she returns to Kabul in search of them - and to return the ring. She's accompanied by Nia and by war journalist Clay Porter. She does find some answers, and finally some peace.

Sparks Like Stars is a very credible, empathetic, engrossing, and illuminating historical. I was especially interested because I was in Herat, Afghanistan the day of the coup in 1978 - we had planned to go to Kabul but instead returned to Iran. Don't miss this one!!

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