Fear of Beauty

Fear of Beauty

by Susan Froestchel

Overview: The battered body of an Afghan boy is found at the base of a cliff outside a remote village in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Did he fall as most of the villagers think? Or is this the work of American soldiers, as others want to believe? Not far from the village, the US Army has set up a training outpost. Sofi, the boy's illiterate young mother, is desperate to find the truth about her son's death. But extremists move in and offer to roust the "infidels" from the region, adding new pressures and restrictions for the small village and its women. We hear two sides of this story. One is Sofi's. The other is that of US Army Special Ranger Joey Pearson, who is in this faraway place to escape a rough childhood and rigidly fundamentalist parents. In time, and defying all odds, Sofi secretly learns to readówith the help of Mita Samuelson, an American aid worker. Through reading, the Afghan woman develops her own interpretation of how to live the good life while discovering the identity of her son's murderer and the extremists' real purpose in her village. As they search for answers, Sofi, Joey, and Mita come to the same realization: in each of their separate cultures the urge to preserve a way of life can lead to a fundamentalism that destroys a society's basic values.

Debbie Weiss (01/03/15): I agree with all the reviews posted here regarding this interesting book. The author allows the reader to gain insight into the life of common Afghani people. More than anything else, they want peace. Sofi is the main character and is distressed over the mysterious death of her son. She is determined to find the truth. In doing so, she becomes better educated and better able to make decisions for herself. I liked her and was happy that she was able to find what she was looking for.
Rating: ****

Judy Stanton (10/31/13): Although this book is about the difficulties experienced in Afghanistan between Americans and Afghans, it actually upbeat and hopeful. It shows how people can break down fear of others' cultures by exploring one-to-one human relationships. The issues addressed are many:

The book was fast-paced, well written, and educational, while still being compelling. 4+
Rating: *****

Jennifer LeRoy (06/05/13): Froetschel pulls the reader in almost from the first word with her dynamic plot twists that help extend an understanding concerning Afghani culture and the problems ordinary citizens must contend with on a daily basis. It humanizes the people of Afghanistan, even as they navigate their worlds that consist of U.S. soldiers, the Taliban, and the constraints of their own vision. The tensions and good will of Afghani citizens and U.S. military personnel grids up a discourse that allows Froetschel to carry us on a ride of suspense and thrill that relates to everyone, no matter the reader's creed. She interposes wisdom at every turn, even as she appeals to our basic needs to "know", and to know what happens next. Her dialogue opens up the personality of the characters, especially how women relate to each other. Beauty is powerful, and that is both terrifying and our salvation. Froetschel makes that clear with her text, even as we examine our own biases, misgivings, and potential for beauty.

Perhaps beauty will be the thing that truly saves us.
Rating: *****

D. Olsen (04/04/13): Great exploration of cultural difference and woman's desire to read and understand the world around her. Also a fast moving mystery.
Rating: *****

Debbie R. (04/04/13): Fear of Beauty is set in Afghanistan. The son of an Afghan woman dies and sets in motion a tale of intrigue. Villagers blame the death on the Americans, while the Americans blame it on the villagers, and tensions increase. Sofi, being very shrewd, follows her gut and searches for the truth.

Susan Froetschel describes a multitude of things, especially the limited life of an Afghan woman, with details many here in the US are not aware. Not only are women prohibited from appearing in public, but a widespread lack of education means women have no economic opportunities. Most Afghan women are illiterate, hidden and isolated. Sofi defies the Afghan culture, learns English, and takes matters into her own hands Ė this is extremely rare and shows a lot of perseverance, which Froetschel portrays beautifully. You find yourself rooting for Sofi and admiring her strength. In fact, I personally like Sofiís point of view in the book.

The story keeps a reader wanting for more, and the author does an excellent job of reeling you in. You desire to find out who killed Sofiís son and how the book will end. You canít put this excellent read down!
Rating: *****

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