The Secret Sky by Atia Abawi | Audiobook Review

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Secret Sky by Atia Abawi | Audiobook ReviewThe Secret Sky by Atia Abawi
Narrator: Ariana Delawari, Assaf Cohen
Length: 7 Hours 39 Minutes
Published by Penguin on September 2nd 2014
Genres: Asia, Fiction, Love & Romance, People & Places, Social Issues, Values & Virtues, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
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An eye-opening, heart-rending tale of love, honor and betrayal from veteran foreign news correspodent Atia AbawiFatima is a Hazara girl, raised to be obedient and dutiful. Samiullah is a Pashtun boy raised to defend the traditions of his tribe. They were not meant to fall in love. But they do. And the story that follows shows both the beauty and the violence in current-day Afghanistan as Fatima and Samiullah fight their families, their cultures and the Taliban to stay together. Based on the people Atia Abawi met and the events she covered during her nearly five years in Afghanistan, this stunning novel is a must-read for anyone who has lived during America's War in Afghanistan.Perfect for fans of Patricia McCormick, Linda Sue Park, and Khaled Hosseini, this story will stay with readers for a long time to come.* “A suspenseful, enlightening, and hopeful love story.” Publishers Weekly, starred review“Riveting plot, sympathetic characters and straightforward narration studded with vivid, authentic detail: a top choice.” – Kirkus review “Heartbreaking and heartwarming.” – VOYA review

Why Did I Listen To This Book?

Sometimes you read something light and when you are done you’re like, yeah that was fun but then you crave a book that’s going to hit you right in your soul. After finishing up a fun middle grade fantasy audiobook, I wanted my next listen to be totally different. As I am in declutter mode this summer, I went for the audiobook of something I had as a physical unread copy – The Secret Sky by Atia Abawi. I am so, so glad I did. If you want a read that pulls no punches but really lets you have it, this is the book. Abawi’s book hits some dark notes, but ultimately there’s hope. That kind of thing is why I read YA books, because they often do go to dreary places, but then pulse with the hope that it gets better. This book reiterates that.

What’s The Story Here?

The Secret Sky by Atia Abawi is sort of like the Afghanistan version of Romeo and Juliet. Fatima and Samiullah are starcrossed lovers. Fatima is a Hazara girl and Samiullah is a Pashtun boy. As someone who is ignorant about ethnicity in Afghanistan, I had no idea this was a bad thing. Anyways, Fatima and Samiullah used to play together as kids, but now Fatima is older and it’s not quite as acceptable to play together. Yet, when she goes to collect water, he is normally there and of course the two reconnect. They don’t do anything sexual, just bond and such. Anyways, one day, Samiullah’s cousin, Rashid, sees them together and gets pissed off, so he tattles to family. When a punishment isn’t given to his liking, he turns to the local Taliban and unleashes a chain of events that had me stopping to catch my breath and rewinding while listening to the audiobook because I wanted to be sure I understood exactly what was going on.

How Is The Character Development?

While Fatima and Samiullah are intriguing characters with a love affair going on and big decisions to make — I found Rashid to be more compelling. As I listened to the book, my emotions ran the gamut. I was enraged and could not understand why Rashid was such a douche about their relationship. Then, I found myself understanding him a little better, but still thinking he was a jerk. I mean, Rashid is jealous of Samiullah — in that he gets so much attention and love from the family. He’s kind of the golden child. Then, I found myself realizing that Rashid is an impulsive teenager and if he was someplace else, his behavior would have different results. Finally, I found myself hoping for Rashid’s redemption. If anything, I love a good redemption story, even if there is a bit of betrayal involved.

Let’s Go Into Setting And Culture:

So, the only books I can really remember having to do with an Afgahnistan setting that are not told from the perspective of an American at war are The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. I love both books, don’t get me wrong, but my depth of reading knowledge and experience is not exactly huge. So, when The Secret Sky came across my desk and onto my iPhone, I jumped at it. Abawi paints the picture of various people doing their best with the lives they live. The Secret Sky is set in modern day Afghanistan. The Taliban aren’t quite in power anymore, but they are still a big deal and around. Religion plays quite the large role. Really, I wasn’t looking at this book as a primer on what Afghanistan is like, but it was a good glimpse. It whetted my appetite and made me want to read more. Fatima and Samiullah’s story has so much humanity in it — basic emotion like love plays such a large role and I think maybe I don’t know, when we aren’t reading in our cultural comfort zone we make these assumptions forgetting that no matter where you go, people are people.

How’s The Narration?

Aside from the audiobook being convenient to my life, it’s easy to listen to. There are two new to me narrators because this is apparently the summer of new narrators. Ariana Delawari and Assaf Cohen co-narrate this book. Delawari narrates the Fatima chapters and Cohen narrates Samiullah and Rashid’s chapters. I liked that this audiobook is infused with emotion. Further, both narrators have a slight accent that I felt added some authenticity to such a powerful read.

Seriously, if you want an audiobook that’s going to overcome you and make you well up, The Secret Sky by Atia Abawi will do the job.

Sum It Up With A GIF:

It is the redemption in this book that really gets me.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I totally agree — this book brought forth so many emotions. And frustrations. But I really loved it and recommend it to my students. Great review!