The Story Behind the Book
  • "I saw quickly that people under the strain of chronic violence become somehow distilled, the essence of who they are. Nothing can be more dramatic than that. It's not the action scenes that draw me in as either a writer or an observer. It is the woman who wakes up after a funeral and, in the gilded light of early morning, silently begins to knead dough for the day's fresh bread.”
  • "Just a few months ago, on a sad day in Kabul, I also was hit by a laughing jag at a very inopportune moment, in a small closed-door meeting with senior U.S. diplomats. For a few minutes, I couldn't stop. Some looked at me oddly; others joined in. It was a reminder of how these emotions—bereavement and hilarity and dread and optimism—swirl around in the same pool.”
  • "There's not a lot of space between you and life here. So the characters in my novel are compelled by both prayer and violence, as most Afghans are. Prayer, of course, is five times a day. And the call to prayer – which we hear in the embassy compound where I am now, as well as anywhere I've been in Afghanistan – really blends and marks the day. It brings you closer to your understanding and interpretation of your own life, in the same way that violence does. It cuts away the extraneous. Prayer and violence both serve that purpose."
  • "Novels in the production stage are multi-armed, sprawling—even those that seem so contained and disciplined upon completion. They often take years to write, and the author can spend just as long trying to understand the motivation behind investing so much time in the first place."
  • "Seeing the conflict—chronic conflict—that closely really intrigued me as a writer thinking about drama, because people in that situation are so compressed. Sometimes they're amazingly generous and wise and good-hearted, and sometimes they're amazingly petty. But you see, somehow, some kind of pure essence of them. And thinking about writing fiction or novels, you think about a dramatic arc, and it's right there."
Photo by Cheney Hamilton Orr