Set in Afghanistan just as the Americans are leaving the war torn country, Australian doctor Sofia Raso sits in her window in the early morning light, watching as the local residents slowly emerge to attend prayers at the mosque. She knows everyone who lives in square and as the ancient prayers ring out across the city of Kabul, she shivers pulling her shawl closer to her body.
The Night Letters is an evocative portrait of life in Afghanistan lived very much on a daily basis but steeped in the ancient traditions that go back many, many centuries and pays tribute to the strength and fortitude of the Afghani women as they learn, once again, to take their place in a society that still suffers from the rule of the Taliban and its forever ghostly presence in their lives.
Sofia has lived in the Chahaar Rahee Shaahir (Shaahir Square)for the past five years, working with her friend and mentor Dr Jabril Aziz, becoming the much loved Doctor for the women of the Square, as well as working with the women of the slum city Jamal Mina and valleys of the Hindu Kush; training them as midwifes.
When she takes up the cause of the disappearance of young four boys from Jamal Mina things begin to change in the Square with what seem to be Night Letters, delivered by the Taliban, or so it is thought by those who have received them. Sofia was told from the first day at Shaahir Square that she was to keep a low profile as she was a foreign woman working in a male dominated society, but the further she becomes embroiled with the missing boys, her time in this country she has loved with a great passion, becomes fraught with danger.
Then there is Dr Daniel Abiteboul, a man met high in the mountains more than five years ago, a man who shared a night of unforgettable passion only to leave the next morning, returning as the member of the United Nations team arriving in Kabul to assess the medical needs of the Afghani’s in this time of change.
Unforgettable characters grace the pages in a story that is graceful, powerful and bittersweet as every character forms an identity that touches the heart; Bahnaz, wife of Chief Wasim, head of the local Police, tart, unyielding and full of secrets held dear; Jabril, Sofia’s friend and mentor and the kindest soul in the Square. Inez, young beautiful and railing at life she is still made to live in a world rapidly changing, Iqbal the blind cobbler, Amhad the shopkeeper and Omar the Apothecary, also a man holding secrets dear, reminiscing on a life well lived but still, even in his older years filled with change and challenge.
The Night Letters looks with acceptance at the lives and traditions of Afghanistan through the lens of yet another change in a country that has seen endless change, portraying the real strength of the women emerging from oppression, the love of the Afghani for their traditions and colourful history, while pressing the point that nothing in this world is new, nothing is old, and life goes on regardless of the external forces at play.