Book Review: Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi

Reading format: Library hardback

Content warnings: death, foster care abuse, war scenes

Rating: 3.75/5

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In Sparks Like Stars, Nadia Hashimi takes us to Kabul in 1978 where we meet 10-year-old Sitara Zamani. Sitara is the daughter of one of the most trusted advisors to the president of Afghanistan, Sardar Dauoud. For Sitara the palace is like home and where she holds so many fond memories. But then a coup occurs and her world destroyed, taking her family and the president with it. Sitara is smuggled out of the palace by one of the guards and eventually finds herself in the company of two Americans who help her escape to the U.S. Thirty years later Sitara has a chance encounter with the guard who saved her life, stirring her want for answers about her family’s death.

I write my reviews in advance and usually post them much later after I read the book. So at the time of writing this review, I hadn’t read a historical fiction novel in quite a long time. But a while ago I kept seeing this one pop up on my Twitter feed, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Hashimi’s writing is excellent. I really appreciate reading a novel with semi-lyrical or lyrical writing. I like seeing an author’s artistry with words. (Although, oddly, I’m not really that into poetry.) Hashimi writes so beautifully about Sitara’s admiration for her father and mother that I could feel the love through the pages.

Hashimi writes the book through Sitara’s point of view. Her immigration to the U.S. and how little information authorities tell Sitara frustrated me on her behalf; her experience in the foster care system; and her chance encounter with the guard who helped her escape from the palace.

My only critiques I think are really based on personal preference. I felt the pacing was a little slow. It also didn’t capture my attention as fully as other books. But I may have felt this way because I was in a rush to read it. It had a long library wait list and I had to read it before I left for a road trip or it would be overdue. I also would have liked to read more about her life after she left the foster care system. But, ultimately, the crux of the story is about finding closure about her family’s death, so maybe that wouldn’t have added much.

Either way, this is a beautifully written historical fiction. It’s a good read for taking some time to slow down, and also to be semi-introduced to a part of history you’re perhaps not familiar with (at least, I wasn’t).