Darya grows up in an Afghanistan village in the 1850s under an overbearing father. He brings home a second wife who gives him the son he’s always wanted. Before the second wife leaves the family, she curses Darya so no one will marry her.
Eventually, she is married to Shaliq from a Ghilzai tribe whose cruel treatment forces her to flee. This leads to a long and dangerous journey Darya could never have dreamed of.
Back in my school days, we were only ever taught about European explorers as if no other nation travelled the world. So this book was a refreshing change. Xuanzang was a Buddhist monk from Chang’an who left China in the seventh century and travelled over 20,000 kilometres to what is now known as Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, then south-east through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India. He saw flaws in the translations of Buddhist texts in China and was determined to reach the heart of Buddhism in Northern India to discover the truth behind these discrepancies. His journey along with his stops where he studied with renowned Buddhist monks kept him away from China for sixteen years. Because he documented his travels in detail, this is a fascinating read.