The battered body of an Afghan boy is found at the base of a cliff outside a remote village in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Did he fall as most of the villagers think? Or is this the work of American soldiers, as others want to believe? Not far from the village, the US Army has set up a training outpost.
Sofi, the boy's illiterate young mother, is desperate to find the truth about her son's death. But extremists move in and offer to roust the "infidels" from the region, adding new pressures and restrictions for the small village and its women.
We hear two sides of this story. One is Sofi's. The other is that of US Army Special Ranger Joey Pearson, who is in this faraway place to escape a rough childhood and rigidly fundamentalist parents.
In time, and defying all odds, Sofi secretly learns to read--with the help of Mita Samuelson, an American aid worker. Through reading, the Afghan woman develops her own interpretation of how to live the good life while discovering the identity of her son's murderer and the extremists' real purpose in her village.
As they search for answers, Sofi, Joey, and Mita come to the same realization: in each of their separate cultures the urge to preserve a way of life can lead to a fundamentalism that destroys a society's basic values.
2014 Mary Higgins Clark Award Nominee
2014 Love Is Murder Best Suspense Lovey Nominee
2014 National Federation Of Press Women Communications – 2nd Place Winner for Best Novel For Adult Readers
"An exceptionally well-written tale of love, loss, trust, and greed with appeal that reaches far beyond mystery fans." --Publishers Weekly
"[A] great societal thriller …. Action-packed, readers will feel they are in Helmond Province as Sofi bravely searches for the truth with Mita and Joey enabling her. However, what makes Fear of Beauty one of the top novels of the year is the moral warning that extreme preservation of a culture’s tradition can result in perverting the fundamental belief system; whether it is American, Afghani or otherwise." --Mystery Gazette
"The bloodied body of a boy is found in a remote Afghan village, and his mother is desperate to understand her son's death. In this confrontational novel, she defies local men to search for answers and discovers how unchecked fundamentalism can corrode society." --Ms. Magazine
"[T]his fictional woman halfway across the world isn't so different from you and me. Froetschel has great respect for the Afghan culture and deftly provides a slice-of-life tale that moves, informs and even surprises." --Shelf Awareness
"For all the time that the United States has been at war in Afghanistan, it's rather surprising that we don't know more about how the people in small Afghan villages live.... Froetschel does a wonderful job of presenting both the US and Afghan views of a very complicated situation.... Fear of Beauty really excels at showing the personal side of life in an extremely challenging environment. " --Reviewing the Evidence
"I would recommend this novel to any reader of murder mysteries as well as to anyone interested in women's rights, literacy and religion in the Middle East." --Murder Lab
"Susan Froetschel makes the Afghanistan conflict real on a personal level, in a tale rich with thought-provoking themes. . . . Fear of Beauty is a wonderful novel." --Sandra Parshall, Agatha Award-winning author of Bleeding Through
"Froetschel is a superb storyteller. She brings the rugged beauty of Afghanistan, its simple folk, and its many dangers together in a spine-tingling tale." --Nayan Chanda, author of Bound Together