I hope you enjoyed, When the Apricots Bloom by Gina Wilkinson, the December selection for our Facebook Book Club. If you did, hopefully you’ll also like something from this list of stories about unlikely female friendships while giving readers a glimpse of life in war-torn countries.
Old Lovegood Girls by Gail Godwin
When the dean of Lovegood Junior College for Girls decides to pair Feron Hood with Merry Jellicoe as roommates in 1958, she has no way of knowing the far-reaching consequences of the match. Feron, who has narrowly escaped from a dark past, instantly takes to Merry and her composed personality. Surrounded by the traditions and four-story Doric columns of Lovegood, the girls—and their friendship—begin to thrive. But underneath their fierce friendship is a stronger, stranger bond, one comprised of secrets, rivalry, and influence—with neither of them able to predict that Merry is about to lose everything she grew up taking for granted, and that their time together will be cut short.
Ten years later, Feron and Merry haven’t spoken since college. Life has led them into vastly different worlds. But, as Feron says, once someone is inside your “reference aura,” she stays there forever. And when each woman finds herself in need of the other’s essence, that spark—that remarkable affinity, unbroken by time—between them is reignited, and their lives begin to shift as a result.
Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik
All through her childhood in Tehran, Forugh Farrokhzad is told that Persian daughters should be quiet and modest. She is taught only to obey, but she always finds ways to rebel—gossiping with her sister among the fragrant roses of her mother’s walled garden, venturing to the forbidden rooftop to roughhouse with her three brothers, writing poems to impress her strict, disapproving father, and sneaking out to flirt with a teenage paramour over café glacé. During the summer of 1950, Forugh’s passion for poetry takes flight—and tradition seeks to clip her wings.
Forced into a suffocating marriage, Forugh runs away and falls into an affair that fuels her desire to write and to achieve freedom and independence. Forugh’s poems are considered both scandalous and brilliant; she is heralded by some as a national treasure, vilified by others as a demon influenced by the West. She perseveres, finding love with a notorious filmmaker and living by her own rules—at enormous cost. But the power of her writing only grows stronger amid the upheaval of the Iranian revolution.
Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday
Told in three distinct and uniquely compelling sections, Asymmetry explores the imbalances that spark and sustain many of our most dramatic human relations: inequities in age, power, talent, wealth, fame, geography, and justice. The first section, “Folly,” tells the story of Alice, a young American editor, and her relationship with the famous and much older writer Ezra Blazer. A tender and exquisite account of an unexpected romance that takes place in New York during the early years of the Iraq War, “Folly” also suggests an aspiring novelist’s coming-of-age. By contrast, “Madness” is narrated by Amar, an Iraqi-American man who, on his way to visit his brother in Kurdistan, is detained by immigration officers and spends the last weekend of 2008 in a holding room in Heathrow. These two seemingly disparate stories gain resonance as their perspectives interact and overlap, with yet new implications for their relationship revealed in an unexpected coda.
Red Dress in Black and White by Elliot Ackerman
Catherine has been married for many years to Murat, an influential Turkish real estate developer, and they have a young son together, William. But when she decides to leave her marriage and return home to the United States with William and her photographer lover, Murat determines to take a stand. He enlists the help of an American diplomat to prevent his wife and child from leaving the country—but, by inviting this scrutiny into their private lives, Murat becomes only further enmeshed in a web of deception and corruption. As the hidden architecture of these relationships is gradually exposed, we learn the true nature of a cast of struggling artists, wealthy businessmen, expats, spies, a child pulled in different directions by his parents, and, ultimately, a society in crisis.
The Book of V by Anna Solomon
Lily is a mother and a daughter. And a second wife. And a writer, maybe? Or she was going to be, before she had children. Now, in her rented Brooklyn apartment she’s grappling with her sexual and intellectual desires, while also trying to manage her roles as a mother and a wife in 2016.
Vivian Barr seems to be the perfect political wife, dedicated to helping her charismatic and ambitious husband find success in Watergate-era Washington D.C. But one night he demands a humiliating favor, and her refusal to obey changes the course of her life-along with the lives of others.
Esther is a fiercely independent young woman in ancient Persia, where she and her uncle’s tribe live a tenuous existence outside the palace walls. When an innocent mistake results in devastating consequences for her people, she is offered up as a sacrifice to please the King, in the hopes that she will save them all.
Silent Hearts by Gwen Florio
In 2001, Kabul is a place of possibility as people fling off years of repressive Taliban rule. This hopeful chaos brings together American aid worker Liv Stoellner and Farida Basra, an educated Pakistani woman still adjusting to her arranged marriage to Gul, the son of an Afghan strongman whose family spent years of exile in Pakistan before returning to Kabul.
Both Liv and her husband take positions at an NGO that helps Afghan women recover from the Taliban years. They see the move as a reboot—Martin for his moribund academic career, Liv for their marriage. But for Farida and Gul, the move to Kabul is fraught, severing all ties with Farida’s family and her former world, and forcing Gul to confront a chapter in his life he’d desperately tried to erase.
The two women, brought together by Farida’s work as an interpreter, form a nascent friendship based on their growing mutual love for Afghanistan.
The Baghdad Eucharist by Sinan Antoon
Displaced by the sectarian violence in the city, Maha and her husband are taken in by a distant cousin, Youssef. As the growing turmoil around them seeps into their household, a rare argument breaks out between the elderly Youssef and his young guest. Born into sanctions and war, Maha knows nothing of Iraq’s good years that Youssef holds dear. Set over a single day, The Baghdad Eucharist is an intimate story of love, memory, and anguish in one Christian family.
The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed
It is 1987 and Hargeisa waits. Whispers of revolution travel on the dry winds, but still the dictatorship remains secure.
Soon, through the eyes of three women, we will see Somalia fall. Nine-year-old Deqo has left the vast refugee camp where she was born, lured to the city by the promise of her first pair of shoes.
Kawsar, a solitary widow, is trapped in her little house with its garden clawed from the desert, confined to her bed after a savage beating in the local police station. Filsan, a young female soldier, has moved from Mogadishu to suppress the rebellion growing in the north. As the country is unraveled by a civil war that will shock the world, the fates of these three women are twisted irrevocably together.