“Flowers From Afghanistan” is a good read any time, but especially now, as our country ends its 20-year involvement with that country. There are no “winners and losers” in Parish’s book, just people who need God. The novel is a national Readers Choice Award winner and earned a Bronze Medal from the Military Writers Society of America.”~Review by Kathleen D. Bailey
“WHAT I’M READING NOW, and why you should too. “Flowers From Afghanistan” by Suzy Parish. Mac McCann never thought he’d outlive one of his children. When his son “Little Mac” is killed in a car crash, McCann doesn’t seek refuge in drinks, drugs or despondency. Instead, the Alabama police officer signs on for a year-long commitment training law enforcement personnel in Afghanistan. Yes, that Afghanistan.
McCann reasons that the higher pay will help him pay off Little Mac’s medical bills – and escape his guilt. Mac’s wife Sophie, the love of his life, wants them to grieve together. When he reassures her, “We can do this,” she fires back, “Where is the ‘we,’ Mac? Because all I see right now is the ‘you.’” She goes on to remind him that she will never see Little Mac play baseball or go to his prom, and that “I don’t have dreams. I barely sleep.” But Mac is running from more than just loss: he feels guilt for Little Mac’s death. And though Sophie wants them to heal together, he isn’t ready for that. And he has a secret, one that causes him just as much shame. So he packs his gear and heads off to Kandahar, Afghanistan.
He makes friends with other contractors, members of the military and a few locals, notably Gul Hadi, a local barber. He enjoys his time with Gul and Gul’s son Bashir, 4, a child with energy and potential – and a child in danger as long as he stays in Afghanistan.A natural caretaker, Mac “adopts” the Hadis and also a stray dog. He adjusts to life in a 7×7 foot “cell” and the strategies necessary to procure certain goods on a foreign military base. He learns to appreciate the stark beauty of the country, even as he worries about his students and the few civilian friends he’s made. He video-chats with Sophie. Though they still love each other, most of their talks are inconclusive, and he wonders if they’ll ever be whole again.
While Sophie still grieves their son, she has gone on with her life, focusing on her growing bakery business. They reunite when he is home on leave, and they finally talk, the talk they’ve been putting off for a year. Mac isn’t running any more. “We would make it. Only this time I was the one who needed reassuring. Returning to Afghanistan was harder than I expected, and it took all my will to drive toward the airport.” But Afghanistan is still a war zone, and Mac’s greatest challenge lies ahead, testing everything he has and is. Can Mac survive it?
Only when he puts himself in the hands of the One who also saw his firstborn son die. But that changes everything. Parish’s story is rich in the details and minutiae of life on an Army base, and the peculiar no-mans-land of being a civilian contractor. Her story also adequately conveys the beauty, and the tragedy, of this ancient land. “Flowers” is not a political diatribe, but like the best war stories, it shows the people and tells the story through them.
Mac’s struggles will be real to anyone who has lost a child, especially a young child, and especially when they attempt to take the blame on themselves. Parish also does a good job of portraying the fragile state of the McCanns’ marriage, and their desire to strengthen it without really knowing how. Sophie brings a warm, loving energy to the story, making the reader see that these two people do belong together. She fills Mac’s empty places.
“Flowers From Afghanistan” is a good read any time, but especially now, as our country ends its 20-year involvement with that country. There are no ‘winners and losers’ in Parish’s book, just people who need God.” ~Kathleen D. Bailey
The novel is a national Readers Choice Award winner and earned a Bronze Medal from the Military Writers Society of America. Order it from Amazon or the publisher, www.pelicanbookgroup.com. Pelican/Harbourlight Books2018ISBN 978-1-5223-0044-1