Book Review | Lipstick in Afghanistan

Title: Lipstick in Afghanistan

Author: Roberta Gately

My Review:

Raised in poverty, Elsa grows up determined to make a difference in the lives of others. As an ER nurse, she makes a good living and helps to save lives, but it’s not enough for her. After the events of 9/11, Elsa wants to assist and accepts a position in Aghanistan. In this strange country, Elsa must learn a new language, customs, and medical procedures.

Though she’s far away from home, Elsa grows to love Bamiyan and its villagers, accepting it as her home. A small handful of villagers, including a strong Afghani woman named Parween, etch themselves forever into Elsa’s heart. It is here in this unfamiliar country, so full of both good and evil, that Elsa falls in love with a soldier and experiences the lengths that people will go to fight for their freedom.

Lipstick in Afghanistan by Roberta Gately is based on the author’s own experiences working in war zones across the seas. Drawing on stories she heard from the natives, she formed the basis for this book in her mind. When I first read about it, I actually thought it was a memoir. Once I had the book in my hands and saw that the author had one name and the heroine another, the record was set straight for me. At the end of the book, Gately explains her research for this novel and talks a little about her own experiences.

I liked this book, but I also had mixed feelings about it. It’s separated into 4 different sections from different points of view. The first section introduces us to Elsa, who has worked hard to create a better life for herself and now wants to help others do the same. The second section focuses on an Afghani woman we are briefly introduced to in the first section, and I loved this section of the book above any other. Parween’s story is so powerful that it could have been a novel in itself, and I wish that it had been the entire focus of this one. I liked Elsa well enough, but Parween was truly someone special. Once part 3 brought us back to Elsa’s story, my interest was waning; I wanted to hear more about Parween’s life.

I thought this book would have worked much better if Gately had written an actual memoir, or written a fiction novel that focused on Parween. I was happy to see that Gately has written a memoir, and is hoping to release it for publication. Her writing style is lovely, so I expect to see more good things from her.

*I received a copy of this book to review but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while reading this novel.*


Jen currently lives in Utah with her family, and enjoys reading and writing in her spare time. She is active on popular book websites including,, and

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