Author On the Bookcase: Patricia McArdle
Please welcome Patricia McArdle, author of Farishta, to On the Bookcase! She explains why she wrote her novel as well as why she thinks it is it important.
The paperback version of my novel Farishta is has been released on line and in bookstores. No fanfare, no parties, no interviews—but I have received several more requests to meet with book clubs in person—and I’ve also started meeting with book clubs via Skype, which means I can attend meetings anywhere in the world.
A big thanks to “Reading Group Choices” for recommending Farishta as a book club selection.
I understand that a lot of Americans are tired of hearing or even thinking about our long involvement in Afghanistan, but I believe we must learn as much as we can about that nation, it’s people, and the foreigners who have gone there to fight, to help rebuild Afghanistan, to make money or to further their own national interests.
This war is not over. Today I am in Oceanside, California. Farishta is a finalist in the 2012 San Diego Book Awards competition and I attended the awards dinner Saturday June 9th with my family and with my fingers crossed. As I sit here writing, I can hear (even feel) the explosions coming from nearby Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base, where men as young as 18 are training for combat. Some of them will go to Afghanistan in the coming year. Some will be injured. Some will die. Some will come home with hidden psychological wounds that won’t manifest for years. We must understand why this war is happening and we must understand the consequences each time our nation decides to go to war. It is my hope that Farishta can help contribute to this understanding.
Farishta takes readers to parts of Afghanistan they won’t hear about in news reports. It introduces a cast of characters: American, British, Russian, French and Afghan, all of whom are fighting their own inner battles. I was deeply moved by many things I saw and experienced during the year I spent in northern Afghanistan with a British Army infantry unit. I discovered solar cooking, which has become my obsession. I met Afghan women who are battling for basic survival and dignity, whose children spend their days gathering twigs for their mother's cooking fires and whose daughters are still being married off far too young and against their will. I witnessed the incredible waste in many of our reconstruction efforts. I saw a country blessed with abundant solar and wind resources, which remains dependent on the millions of gallons of diesel fuel that must be trucked in across the Amu Daria River in the north or through the Khyber Pass from Pakistan in the south.
When I came home after a year in that country, I was afraid for almost six months to take my dog out for a walk after dark in our very safe neighborhood, something I had done for years before I went to Afghanistan. I was even afraid to pick up litter on the sidewalk, because I thought it might explode in my hand. My problem was minuscule compared to the serious PTSD suffered by thousands of our soldiers and by Afghan civilians—all of whom have been touched by the violence of this war.
One of the inspirations for Farishta was James Mitchner’s Caravans. In that novel he wrapped mountains of information about the Afghanistan of the 1940s inside an exciting story of conflict, love, loss and adventure. My goal with Farishta was, like Michener, to attract readers who might never pick up a non-fiction book about Afghanistan. Last year one of my daughter’s friends wrote this: “Pat, I have been reading your book and it is wonderful. I love being able to tie your life into your characters. Truthfully, I thought no one would ever get me to read a book related to Afghanistan or the war, let alone the government! I couldn’t be more interested in what I am reading!” This comment makes me think I may have succeeded.
I hope many more readers will find and enjoy Farishta. It’s in more than four hundred libraries, and it’s available in paperback at bookstores and online. Please go to the contact page on my website if you’d like to invite me to join your book club for a discussion of Farishta.
Thanks Patricia! With themes of women's lives, personal challenges and history Farishta is a great book club pick!
Patricia McArdle is a retired American diplomat. Her debut novel Farishta, which won the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Grand Prize for General Fiction, was inspired by events that occurred during the year she spent in northern Afghanistan with a British Army unit. From 1979-2006 she worked overseas and in Washington D.C. as a member of the U.S. diplomatic corps. Before joining the Department of State she served for three years as one of the first two female Naval Officers at a remote U.S. communications base in Morocco. Prior to her military service, she spent two years as the only Peace Corps volunteer in a small village in central Paraguay.