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Inspired by her own experiences stationed in Baghdad during Saddam Hussein's rule, former foreign correspondent Gina Wilkinson's evocative, suspenseful debut is told through the eyes of three very different women in Iraq at the turn of the millennium. A secretary, an artist and a diplomat’s wife, each must confront the complexities of trust, friendship, and motherhood under the rule of a dictator and his ruthless secret police...
At night, in Huda's fragrant garden, a breeze sweeps in from the desert encircling Baghdad, rustling the leaves of her apricot trees and carrying warning of visitors at her gate. Huda, a secretary at the Australian embassy, lives in fear of the mukhabarat--the secret police who watch and listen for any scrap of information that can be used against America and its allies. They have ordered her to befriend Ally Wilson, the deputy ambassador's wife. Huda has no wish to be an informant, but fears for her teenaged son, who may be forced to join a deadly militia. Nor does she know that Ally has dangerous secrets of her own.
Huda's former friend, Rania, enjoyed a privileged upbringing as the daughter of a sheikh. Now her family's wealth is gone, and Rania too is battling to keep her child safe and a roof over their heads. As the women's lives intersect, their hidden pasts spill into the present. Facing possible betrayal at every turn, all three must trust in a fragile, newfound loyalty, even as they discover how much they are willing to sacrifice to protect their families.
ADVANCE PRAISE FROM BOOKSELLERS & LIBRARIANS
“Huda, Rania, and Ally provide a glimpse into the world of Iraq during the reign of Saddam Hussein. Their lives are so different, and yet common bonds create a friendship that withstands the distrust and paranoia that pervades the dictator’s rule. It is hard to imagine how hard life must have been, although Wilkinson does a marvelous job depicting the fear that all of these characters experienced. Her personal experience in Iraq during in the years prior to the Iraq war adds genuine depth to this story and the characters’ lives. Reading this story gave me an appreciation for my life in a free country! It was riveting from beginning to end. I loved the characters and their strength and perseverance. A great read!” – Stephanie Crowe, Page & Palette (Fairhope, AL)
“Wilkinson’s atmospheric and suspenseful novel explores the complicated relationships between two Iraqi women and a diplomat’s wife during Saddam Hussein’s tyrannical rule. It powerfully illustrates the peril women faced under his misogynistic, autocratic regime, and the risks, lies and betrayals they had to commit in order to protect their families. I read this novel with my heart in my throat.” – Lisa Johnson, Penguin Bookshop (Sewickley, PA)
“It is so easy to forget that there are families behind the headlines, and women desperately clinging to them, willing to risk everything to protect what they hold dear. The stories of these three women are each compelling on their own, but when intertwined they become formidable. The sights and smells of Iraq are so vivid, casting hope where there seems to be only despair. This stunning novel has such an authentic voice it is easy to forget that it is a novel rather than a memoir or history.” – Jennifer Winberry, Hunterdon County Library (Flemington, NJ)
“Reading this novel, I felt the warmth of the sun and tasted the sweetness of the lime tea. The intricately woven relationship between these characters and the expert pacing had me at the edge of my seat, turning the pages as fast as possible all the while wanting to savor every sentence, and even going back to reread a particularly beautiful passage.” – Kaitlin Smith, Copperfield’s Books (Healdsburg, CA)
“Wilkinson’s chilling story about three women living under Saddam Hussein’s brutal and oppressive regime draws from the time she spent in Iraq. Her distinctive perspective is especially compelling when she contrasts the lives of the two Iraqi women – estranged friends Huda and Rania – with that of Ally, the Australian diplomat’s wife who unwittingly brings them together...through their bravery and determination all three women are able to write new endings for their stories.” – Margo Grimm Eule, East City Bookshop (Washington, DC)
“Marvelous…mesmerizing. It was a book I couldn’t put down. It has stayed with me. All I can say is ‘WOW – read it. You won’t be disappointed.’” – Virginia Holsten, Vinton Public Library (Vinton, IA)