cover image A Bed of Red Flowers: In Search of My Afghanistan

A Bed of Red Flowers: In Search of My Afghanistan

Nelofer Pazira, . . Free Press, $15 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-8133-1

Pazira, star of the film Kandahar , remembers picnics and flowers from her 1970s youth in Afghanistan. But those joys disappeared when the Soviets invaded. Her Kabul changed from beloved home to war zone, and her father was imprisoned for his beliefs (he believed in social democracy and refused to join the Communist Party). Pazira's memoir follows not just her own story but that of her country, and sometimes her overviews are broad. When she focuses on her own life, though, the narrative turns gripping and horrifying. Teenaged Pazira joined the resistance, bought black-market blood to aid her ill father after his imprisonment and arranged for the release of detained relatives. In 1989, her family escaped to Pakistan and eventually settled in Canada. Her story continues through her return to Afghanistan in search of a friend in 2002. Pazira's details when discussing Afghanistan are striking: "Once the last tank has gone, the dust from their tracks settles... on the leaves of our almond, pear, and fig trees, over the roses, on the grapevines and on my hair and face." Yet she skates over details in her own life, leaving gaps. Still, Pazira's memories make this, like The Kite Runner , a worthy look at the Afghanistan Americans don't see on the evening news. Agent, Helen Heller. (Sept.)