When Charlie Porter meets Hazaar Alim her first year of university, she’s instantly smitten. Hazaar has it all: beauty, talent, and brains. What she doesn’t realize is that Hazaar’s future has already been decided, and Charlie has no place in it.
Hazaar desperately wants to break her traditions and stay with Charlie, but when forced to choose, she chooses her family over love. When she realizes the choice she made is the worst one possible, it’s too late.
Years later, while working in Pakistan as a diplomat and negotiator, Charlie receives a phone call from a woman who says her British sister-in-law is to be killed for the family’s honor and asks if someone can save her.
Charlie and Hazaar are on a collision course with destiny. If they make it out alive, can they believe in their love once again?
Before you dive into this book, I suggest you take a deep breath. And make sure you have a box of Kleenex near you. You’ll be reaching for it every few pages.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Nightingale is a novel that defies labels. Other than “lesbian fiction”, it’s hard to place it in one solid genre. It’s even difficult to define the characters as being one over the other, or one and not the other. Before I got down to reading the book, I was afraid that the story would be along the same vein as the movie, Not Without My Daughter. Thankfully, I was mistaken. The approach that Andrea Bramhall took with Nightingale is very different from the approach that David Rintels took for the screenplay, Not Without My Daughter.
In Not Without My Daughter, it’s very clear who the enemy is. The enemy is a domineering Muslim man who tricks his wife into following him into a country that is hostile towards Americans. It’s a place with a vastly different set of ethics and cultural values, where the mother/protagonist has absolutely no power and no rights as a woman. The message that the movie is asserting about Muslim men and Iranian society is disturbing, and though it is based on a true story, the screen-play aggressively pursues a storyline that is very black and white and doesn’t give any screen-time or credit to Muslim characters that didn’t fit the enemy archetype. I guess there’s only so much you can fit into two hours?
It made me appreciate Nightingale that much more. The author of this novel offered a balance perspective without making derogatory assertions of those who follow the Islamic faith. She was still able to bring awareness to the readers that these types of political and power struggles do exist around the world today, and that as women, we are still greatly impacted and vulnerable. As lesbian women, we are constantly stigmatized and marginalized. Our voices are often unheard and our stories are buried. Nightingale gives a voice to a very real and plausible situation that each of us could be faced with and what could potentially happen in the aftermath if we decide to choose duty before love.
Ultimately, this is a book about hope and enduring love. This is not just a love story between two women, but between two souls searching and reaching for each other even during their darkest hour. It is about women who are victims of circumstances that are beyond their control. Hazaar and Charlie surpass almost-impossible challenges they are faced with and in the end, find their way back to each other. Personally, Nightingale is one of my top ten. This book will leave you with a lasting impression and it’s a powerful love story that’s worth every second spent reading it.
1. Norah Jones – Nightingale
2. Roberta Flack – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
3. Death Cab for Cutie – I Will Follow You into the Dark
4. Adele – One and Only
5. Eva Cassidy – Autumn Leaves
6. The Dunwells – Communicate
7. Alicia Keys – Like You’ll Never See Me Again
8. Damien Rice – The Blower’s Daughter
9. John Mayer – War of My Life
10. Norah Jones – Come Away With Me
This book would be best read with a cup of Earl Grey tea. Drinking booze with this book will make you an emo drunk, and no one likes emo drunks.