I'm always reading something, usually multiple books at a time.
Zakia and Ali met and fell in love working in their families' adjacent fields in rural Bamiyan, Afghanistan. Zakia's father would not allow them to marry because of religious and ethnic differences. The couple ran away together to get married, resulting in Zakia's father filing criminal charges against them, including kidnapping and bigamy (claiming Zakia was either betrothed to or already married to a cousin). Even once the charges were resolved, Zakia's father and brothers made it their life's mission to restore "honor" to the family by killing Zakia and Ali. They are in hiding to this day.
The author first brought the couple's plight to the world's attention through New York Times articles published in 2014. After publishing the first article, he fully expected the outcome to be that Zakia's family members would kill her. The story continued to evolve in surprising ways. Along with Zakia and Ali's individual story, this book provides a broader context of Afghanistan's history, its cultural attitudes toward women, and other cases involving sexual violence against girls and its acceptance in Afghan society. Also examined are the complications surrounding global media attention to stories such as Ali and Zakia's and the unintended consequences of interventions.
One thing that puzzled me while I was listening to the audiobook: the author often referred to his various attempts to reach Ali, often unsuccessfully, on Ali's cell phone. Ali frequently changes his ringtone, choosing popular Afghan songs. Each time one of these attempts to call Ali is recounted, the author notes what Ali's ringtone was that day. I'd actually be saying--out loud, like a crazy person--"HOW DO YOU KNOW?" In my experience, I only ever hear someone else's ring tone if that phone is physically in my presence. So I emailed Rod Nordland through the NYT website to ask. And he sent me a reply explaining that in Afghanistan, when you call someone's cell number, you actually do hear the other person's ring tone. I have been sharing this little fact with people ever since. Who knew?