Hamida Ghafour's family fled Kabul after the Russian invasion. In 2003 she was sent back by the Telegraph to cover the country's reconstruction. She finds a place changed utterly from the world her parents had described and her grandmother -- an Afghan Virginia Woolf -- had written about. All around her is the West's first post-9/11 experiment with an Islamic democracy. But the people she meets reveal a different kind of nation building: the 'beautician without borders' whose school teaches women a new kind of independence; her cousin's determined parliamentary campaign; the archaeologist digging for his country's lost civilization in the form of a giant sleeping Buddha.
As she participates in her country's present, its elusive past and her family's own story come vividly together for Hamida. But only when she's standing by her grandmother's grave -- after a heavily escorted Chinook trip to the wildest corner of the land -- does she start to find her own place in it all.