My friend Dave likes to talk about books and he likes to collect books, but he doesn’t always like to crack the cover and turn the pages. Recently, he handed me a book that he had purchased but never read, a book written by his cousin Jeanette Windle. The cover picture displayed several women clad in burqas behind the title Veiled Freedom. I wrinkled my nose—dubious, to say the least. A Christian novel set in present-day Afghanistan is hardly my normal reading fare. Neglecting Dave’s offering, I spent the next several weeks reading my way through Miracles by C. S. Lewis and exploring some retellings of Greek myths by Mary Renault. Cold and flu season hit just about the time that I ran out of library books. As I lay on my couch with a box of Kleenex and no TV, I resolved to give Veiled Freedom a half-hearted attempt. I had read no more than a chapter when I was hooked.
Jeanette Windle’s novel interweaves the stories of three individuals, creating a compelling tale of courage, danger, vengeance, and grace. Amy Marshall, an American aid worker in modern day Afghanistan, strives to build up a ministry to abused Afghan women and their children. Along the way, she encounters Steve Wilson, a private security contractor who works for her corrupt landlord. Steve was originally part of the American force that liberated Afghanistan from the Taliban, but the continued violence and lack of freedom in the country has caused him to become cynical about the value of the “liberation.” Although he is frustrated by Amy’s naivety, he does his best to keep her out of dangerous situations. In the course of her aid work, Amy employs Jamil, a mysterious young Afghan with a tortured past. As a devout Muslim, Jamil curiously questions the kindness that Amy shows to all around her. What kind of faith motivates such love?
The story surrounding these characters is filled with many twists and turns, mysteries and cliff-hangers. While the engaging plot propels you through the pages, the thematic elements of the book give you food for later thought. The issue of evangelism in a Muslim country is addressed in detail. Amy Marshall was given permission to come to Kabul as an aid worker, only under the express condition that she not share her faith with the Afghans. What should a Christian in Amy Marshall’s situation do? The book also leads you to consider the importance of freedom. America liberated Afghanistan from the Taliban, then allowed the citizens there to continue under the bondage of Muslim “sharia” law. Should the United States have done more to force these people toward freedom as we know it?
Throughout the book, Ms. Windle places you securely in the setting with seamless prose and realistic dialogue. The back cover of the book proudly proclaims that the author’s descriptions of affairs in Afghanistan are so accurate that government officials have wondered whether she somehow received classified information. Ms. Windle’s description of religion is as well drawn as her descriptions of people and places. She projects a three-dimensional picture of Islam without caricaturing its adherents and presents a full-orbed image of the Gospel without becoming cheesy. Veiled Freedom is a satisfying read and I am looking forward to the next two books in the trilogy. Thanks for sharing, Dave.