Though his beautifully written book is tinged with melancholy, there is a glimmer of hope: Zakia and Ali are adamant that Ruqia will be educated and marry for love. A former Afghan Women's Minister describes Afghanistan as 'the worst place in the world to be a woman'. But perhaps, Nordland suggests, Ruqia will be the true beneficiary of her parents' unshakeable belief that love conquers all.
Part riveting love story, part documentation of the fragile gains of the Afghan women's rights movement, the book details Nordland's extensive involvement with Zakia and Ali, a young couple from the mountains of Afghanistan who were forbidden to marry because of ethnic and religious differences... The Lovers is an important reminder of the complexity of Afghanistan's problems and of the fact that a long history of Western involvement has not solved them.
With keen and nuanced insight, Nordland details the tortuous road that Zakia and Ali travelled...Nordland became the pair's chronicler and, later, their unofficial protector when, straining the limits of his professional involvement with them, he began to help the pair financially. Meticulously reported and written, Nordland's book is an exceptionally well-delineated glimpse into the marriage practices of a closed patriarchal society and the suffering it has caused women. The author thoughtfully considers the extent to which the West, acting from the outside, can effect social reform in Muslim fundamentalist cultures. A provocative, well-told story of love at all costs and an incisive examination of the continued violation of women's rights in Afghanistan.
In Nordland's telling, the pair emerge as fully rounded characters even while serving as symbols of Afghan culture's stifling restraints. From the couple's initial elopement to their unexpected elevation to media prominence ... Nordland's storytelling remains gripping, with more than a hint of Shakespearean drama. The couple's survival, in the face of familial and societal condemnation, provides a happy if incomplete resolution... less uplifting is Nordland's reporting on the overall situation for women in Afghanistan, a country that Massouda Jalal, former Afghan minister for women's affairs, calls "the worst place in the world to be a woman.
A deeply reported and deeply felt book about true love and its political and personal consequences in one of the most dangerous countries in the world, for journalists and lovers, too.
The Lovers is a heartbreaking tale of illicit love and religious persecution. Rod Nordland seamlessly weaves the personal and the political in urgent, effortless prose to tell a story that is not only beautifully written but also vitally important for our times.