A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar

I feel like I’ve just been living in Kashgar, an Islamic city located within the People’s Republic of China, with Millicent, Lizzie and Eva. I’ve eaten the dates, apricots, melons and bread, drunk the tea, and admired the women who are wives of Mohammed living under his ‘care’ as long as they obey.

Elizabeth (Lizzie) and Evangline English have come to Kashgar in 1923 with Lizzie’s friend, Millicent, to be missionaries. Millicent has brought her Bible, and strong intentions; Lizzie has brought her Leica camera to photograph their story, and Evangeline has brought her diary for it is her plan to write a book, A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar, which Mr. Hatchett has promised to publish.
On the way to their destination, in the very beginning of the book, these women come upon a young girl giving birth. Millicent is able to help in the birthing process, but the severing of the umbilical cord is construed by the bystanders as a murder. Now they must hide away, in Kashgar, until it is decided what should be done with Millicent.
And the baby? She is taken by Eva, named Ai-Lien, and loved with all of Eva’s heart.
Interspersed between this story, are chapters in present day London telling of Frieda, a young girl with a sorrowful past. Her parents have been ‘victims’ of the 1970’s: believing in free love, freedom from possessions, freedom from religion, and consequently find themselves free from nothing. Frieda feels herself being pulled away from the romance she has shared with married Nicholas, and drawn toward the stranger, Tayeb, whom she has found sleeping outside her door one night.
This novel contains everything I love: a multi-layered story line, a puzzle to sort through, travel to exotic places, and the issues of adoption, faith, and love. It is absolutely beautifully written, a novel that I read in 24 hours because I could not put it down. This novel will not be available until July, 2012, so I thank Bloomsbury publishers for sending it my way. I cannot suggest it strongly enough, and I know it will surely be one of my favorite reads for the year.

You can visit author Suzanne Joinson’s blog here and her website here.