Blue Hours

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Member Reviews

I really enjoyed the first part of this book, when Mim was a teenager / young woman in Manhattan.  The second part, many years later in Afghanistan, just didn't feel plausible.  I have no idea whether it would be possible to travel round the country in the way that Mim did, but the author didn't convince me that it would be.

This novel felt like two entirely separate stories, with only tenuous links between them.
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In Blue Hours we meet a group of recent college graduates in 1991 and then again twenty years later.  Kyra, loved and lost by both Mim and Roy after they left school, is missing from her non-profit aid station in Afghanistan and her last known act was to send years of unmailed letters she had written to Mim, mailed to Roy to be delivered to Mim, presumably because she had Roy's address. Roy has the means to hire personnel to find Kyra, but he insists that he and Mim must go and do their best to locate her - they owe it to her to give this their personal attention despite the fact that Mim hasn't heard from Kyra in twenty years - until those letters delivered now.  

Mim's husband Nolan and her teenaged son Sean are self-sufficient enough to muddle through during her absence - they do it when she is on the road with the release of her latest novel - but Nolan, in particular, feels fearful at the very thought of her traveling through what is a major war zone with a man he doesn't know to find a woman she once loved. Those letters, read randomly as Mim finds a slice of free time, brings both Mim and Kyra into sharper focus, and gives their stories added depth.  

This story is action-packed,  the descriptive passages during the trek through Afghanistan take you there, the people they encounter are well fleshed out and the attempts at rescuing Kyra are involved but plausible.  This is a novel I am pleased to recommend to friends and family.   

I received a free electronic copy of this novel from Netgalley, Daphne Kalotay, and Northwestern University Press.  Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me.  I have read this novel of my own volition, and this review reflects my honest opinion of this work.
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Blue Hours displays Daphne Kalotay's astonishing writing talent. From the first sentence ("We were college graduates, blase about it, our diplomas rolled into tubes"), I was fully engaged. The insight, word play and plotting carried me through Part I, The Island, where a fiercely intimate friendship is formed between two young women in Manhattan; and Part II, The Desert, where one of those women goes to the far reaches of Afghanistan when the other is reported missing there.

Reading it was such a lovely experience, but Part III, The World, let me down. It felt rushed and even less personal than the the first 90% of the book -- where I hadn't minded the detachment of Mim, the narrator. After all, she had the textbook childhood for an attachment disorder, and her first close relationship (with Kyra, a dancer) is suddenly terminated.

Until that phone call that lets her know Kyra has disappeared on an aid mission. Mim then puts her life on hold and her marriage in jeopardy to trek to the Afghan-Pakistan border in search of her lost (in many senses) friend.

The beauty of this book is in the deft capture of subtle U.S. class distinctions, of geopolitical realities with absolutely no partisan tropes, and of Kalotay's descriptive power to bring a scene to vivid life. It is worth reading even if one reader wished for something more complete at the finish.

Thanks to NetGalley for an advance readers copy.
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A great and thrilling tale, which leads you through a path of darkness. Excellently crafted, with twists and turns that will keep your turning pages through the night.
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Blue Hours reads well. The characters and settings keep the pace moving along nicely. The NYC scenes bring the early narrative to life while the Afghan section drags on a bit long, maybe, but, the captivation remains and the need to move through the novel keeps the reader "in". The intriguing title unveils its connection and the reader finds the resolution fitting.
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Look out for this nuanced story in July, 2019. From established American author, Daphne Kalotay this is a beautifully-written and thoughtful novel about guilt and self-knowledge set in the USA and in Afghanistan. From small beginnings where recent graduates take on menial jobs and experiment in relationships, the story grows to encompass love, war and bravery, Both moving and (particularly in the latter half) a page turner.
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A fascinating story first set in New York City, moving into Afghanistan, and then to rural upstate New York. The characters have unique personalities, some quarks are humorous, some superficial, some deeper than the ocean. The relationships between the characters really make the book interesting.
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Writing: 4 Plot: 3 Characters: 3

How far would you go for a friend?  Successful author Mim Woodruff faces this question when a call reveals that a humanitarian aid worker in Afghanistan has gone missing.  Once an intensely close friend, Mim has not spoken to Kyra in twenty years.

The novel is composed of two major parts:  the first takes place in Manhattan twenty years before the phone call.  Mim and Kyra, fresh out of school, finding their way in the world.  Kyra stylish, pushing away the wealth that is her birthright, and possessed of a deep, almost painful, awareness of the distress around her;  Mim, dreaming of being a writer but instead folding sweaters at Benetton, observing the world around her but always at a remove.  A youthful but intense love affair, a shattering experience, and an almost surgical split lays the foundation for events twenty years later.

Part two follows the journey Mim takes into ever-more remote Afghanistan in the search for the missing Kyra.  Beautiful descriptions of the physical environment and the people.  Well-researched portrayals of the organization of and interplay between the various factions, the military, the aid organizations, and those in remote villages.  Stunning portraits of the individuals involved and those they avoid, warily approach, or engage. 

The story feels real — messy, inescapable, and somewhat hopeless — and yet giving up really can’t be an option.  The tone is emotionally removed, like our central character.  While I found the detail and depth of the story engaging, I did not resonate with the characters at all — in fact I really didn’t like Mim very much.  As an author describing her observations from an objective viewpoint, she works;  As an individual going through deeply personal experiences, not so much. Possibly this says more about me than her!
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Ms Kalotay is a very talented writer. Being a male 2x the age the female protagonist and a plot focused of the friendship of two women, I'm probably not the target audience for this (3.5 Stars) So, I should probably keep my comments brief. and let those who may be a better judge speak. Nonetheless, the characters and scenes and dialog were very well crafted. The pacing was a little uneven, but that's a minor thing. Overall, even though I didn't stay fully engaged throughout, I'd recommend this for those seeking a solid novel. I author has a bright future.

I really appreciate the ARC for review!
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