Ashes and Rubble book review

Author Hayat Alvi is a political science professor specializing in the Middle East and North Africa. It is no surprise that she has decided to pen a series of short stories about women in the developing world.

Ashes and Rubble brings tales of tragedy, grief and difficulty together in a small package consisting of 7 very short – often flash – stories. In “Afghan Eyes”, a young school girl Fatima dreams of running free in the fields outside. In “The Unwanted”, an abused Indian widow Hasina is crushed by her brother’s inhumane treatment. In “Redemption”, Indian American girl Salma finds out the truth about her dead mother. In “The Sahara’s Shadia”, a Middle Eastern woman and her horse Shadia conquer a sandstorm together. In “Ashtrays”, two young woman take a trip to Turkey and find themselves at the mercy of other women’s judging eyes.

Alvi’s prose is lyrical and impactful. “Her name was Shadia. She had a shiny brownish bronze coat, with a long seductive mane of golden hair that fell into her round eyes and reached all the way to the base of her back.” Alvi describes the locations in her book with deft words and characters with unsympathetic imagery. “Hasina opened the old, rotted wooden door, the pale blue paint chipping and crumbling onto the unswept cement floor.”

Readers will be sure to enjoy and appreciate the stories, even though the word count is unusually low and the volume is more a chapbook than anything else. Still, the stories of the women Alvi highlights are worth reading about and pondering over. 

Ashes and Rubble is available on Amazon.