The Kashmir Shawl
Two women travel the same road but in different time periods in search of their own identity. Mair begins her journey when her father passes away and within his effects she finds a shawl made of Kashmir. The intricate weaving and the story told within the tattered folds of this woven shawl create a tapestry within it that holds a story about the past. As she tries to read his piece and understand each design in the hope of learning more about her grandmother and her life. But, Mair’s journey is about to begin as she travels to India, visits places that many would love to see today and experiences first hand how a magnificent Pashmina is made, the weaving, the way the sheep are treated and the landscape that covers that country drawing her in from the start. As she becomes more familiar with the country she meets a young woman named Karen who befriends her, as she is frustrated with her young daughter’s behavior and Mair with her acrobatics manages to surprise not only the young child but the mother too. Then the story flashed back to 1941 and we meet Nerys her grandmother whose life is not that much different than hers as she too finds herself trapped in an isolated world controlled by her husband a Reverend devoted to his work. Both women winding up in Srinagar: Mair on her journey to learn more about her past and Nerys with her new found friends to find her present. When things get tough she invites houseguests in order to ease their way and as a result she and the wife become fast friends. When Evan, her husband needs to explore more places for his mission, he encourages her to journey with them and spend some time. With the weather bad, the way hazardous both women wind up in the same place but during different times.
With the advent of WWII and the rise of Germany causing problems for some, things begin to change for one woman and the other will explore more as she receives a compelling photo from her brother linking her present to the story from the past. As Mair and Bruno, Karen’s husband wanted to visit a special cemetery and see a certain memorial something seems to spark between them. Telling him about her life and sharing her experiences with him realizing he was a good listener. When Lotus, Karen’s daughter is attacked by a dog things begin to change as her life is in danger. The story then moves to Nerys and Myrtle in the past as they are enjoying Things changed the some young women had to deal with men being away fighting in the war and then Nerys learns that Evan was not going to join for quite some time. The social classes seem the same as people judge you by appearances, wealth and status even back then. Beggars on the street, learning more about the people, losing sight of where she was and dealing with hostilities Neyrs she learned many new lessons in life. A chance encounter with a magician named Rainer would change this greatly for her. But, another friend whose husband is in the service finds herself dealing with a tenuous situation but can it be solved and will she decide on a different route?
The story flashes to Mair and her concern for Lotus. But, she was on a quest and when she enlisted the help of a young Muslim she begins by telling him her story and then he relates the history of Srinagar and more about Kashmir. But, tragedy strikes as Mair prepares to meet someone that might just connect the dots to her past. The past becomes the present as we flash back again and learn more about Neyrs. During her time away and after meeting Myrtle she learned much about men and women and she began to understand an entirely different way of life. When with Rainer she came alive what about Evan?
Learning more about Caroline Bowen who comes into light in the present we learn about her indiscretions as we meet her in the present along with Mair. Her life changed and her feelings for one man were turned to another as Nyers came alive. A powerful novel that spans many different time periods and war that would change the complexion of so many lives. Two women caught in a web of their own. One finding freedom and the other finding her past. As Mair talks about Karen and Bruno and their lives dome together again. Both women traveling to Leh and both pasts coming to the present. Then Evan returns and he life was no longer the same just what will she do? But, there is another story that of Caroline, her infidelity and the beautiful child that so many others helped her care for keeping her secret when her husband returned form war.
Ravi, Ralph, Archie, Evan and so many others caught up in the times and so many women torn between two different worlds. Lies, deceit, betrayals and much more encompass the world of so many. Ravi turns on someone that cares about him and secrets that some hope will never be revealed. We move to 1945 and the end of the war and Nerys and Rainer. Even though her life remained the same in some aspects it did changed in others as her relationship with Rainer continued but in a different way. When all of the threads of the shawl fit together you won’t believe where the final pieces wind up.
As Mair brings the shawl where it really belongs we learn more about the fate of so many. Just where did Rainer wind up and did he desert her? What about Prita and what about Zahra when she learns the truth? The past comes full circle in the present as both Bruno and Mair face end together and the final revelations will keep the reader glued to the printed page to find out just why this Kashmir Shawl was so precious.
A story told in the voices of both Mair and Nerys with the lives of others intertwined. An ending that will surprise you and a young woman whose past finally just might become her present. For Mair some things just might never change and the folds of the shawl when unwrapped tell an amazing story.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer
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