A former foreign correspondent, Gina Wilkinson spent more than a year in Baghdad under Saddam Hussein—at a time when Iraq was virtually sealed off from the outside world. During that period, her closest Iraqi friend worked as a secret police informant and reported on her every move. When the Apricots Bloom is inspired by that real-life experience, and examines the complexities of trust, friendship, and family under the rule of a dictator and his ruthless secret police.
When the Apricots Bloom alternates between different points of view, exploring past and present while shining a light on the moral complexities of life under a totalitarian regime. It challenges readers to ask who and what we would sacrifice to protect our families.
This novel is set almost 20 years ago, and while that’s not quite historical fiction, the author draws from real life to provide authenticity and insight into one of the world’s most intriguing places and cultures at a pivotal time in recent history. It transports readers to one of the world’s legendary cities, with mouth-watering cuisine, incredible history, a thriving art scene, and bustling book markets.
When the Apricots Bloom seeks to help readers in the West see past stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims, and understand that most people, wherever they are, want the same thing, and that there is much more that unites us than divides us.
Gina Wilkinson has considerable experience using both traditional and social media platforms to reach a wide audience. As part of her current work promoting the World Bank Group’s efforts to fight poverty, she tweets, Instagrams, and prepares blogs and Facebook Live videos that attract hundreds of thousands of views.
Praise for Gina Wilkinson and When The Apricots Bloom
“A deeply involving and important novel by a master storyteller. Gina Wilkinson highlights the humanity at the center of a brutal conflict. She brings her lived experience to every page of this harrowing, dramatic, and ultimately hopeful book.”
—Susan Wiggs, # 1 New York Times bestselling author
“Gina Wilkinson’s breathtaking novel explores the plight of ordinary people who must flee their country to survive, as three women living under the tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein and his brutal secret police risk their lives to protect themselves and their children. Riveting and profound! I adored this book!”
—Ellen Marie Wiseman, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan Collector
“Huda, Rania, and Ally provide a glimpse into the world of Iraq during the reign of Saddam Hussein. Their lives are so different, and yet common bonds create a friendship that withstands the distrust and paranoia that pervades the dictator’s rule. It is hard to imagine how hard life must have been, although Wilkinson does a marvelous job depicting the fear that all of these characters experienced. Her personal experience in Iraq during in the years prior to the Iraq war adds genuine depth to this story and the characters’ lives. Reading this story gave me an appreciation for my life in a free country! It was riveting from beginning to end. I loved the characters and their strength and perseverance. A great read!”
—Stephanie Crowe, Page & Palette (Fairhope, AL)
“Wilkinson’s atmospheric and suspenseful novel explores the complicated relationships between two Iraqi women and a diplomat’s wife during Saddam Hussein’s tyrannical rule. It powerfully illustrates the peril women faced under his misogynistic, autocratic regime, and the risks, lies and betrayals they had to commit in order to protect their families. I read this novel with my heart in my throat.”
—Lisa Johnson, Penguin Bookshop (Sewickley, PA)
“It is so easy to forget that there are families behind the headlines, and women desperately clinging to them, willing to risk everything to protect what they hold dear. The stories of these three women are each compelling on their own, but when intertwined they become formidable. The sights and smells of Iraq are so vivid, casting hope where there seems to be only despair. This stunning novel has such an authentic voice it is easy to forget that it is a novel rather than a memoir or history.”
—Jennifer Winberry, Hunterdon County Library (Flemington, NJ)
“Reading this novel, I felt the warmth of the sun and tasted the sweetness of the lime tea. The intricately woven relationship between these characters and the expert pacing had me at the edge of my seat, turning the pages as fast as possible all the while wanting to savor every sentence, and even going back to reread a particularly beautiful passage.”
—Kaitlin Smith, Copperfield’s Books (Healdsburg, CA)
“Wilkinson’s chilling story about three women living under Saddam Hussein’s brutal and oppressive regime draws from the time she spent in Iraq. Her distinctive perspective is especially compelling when she contrasts the lives of the two Iraqi women – estranged friends Huda and Rania – with that of Ally, the Australian diplomat’s wife who unwittingly brings them together...through their bravery and determination all three women are able to write new endings for their stories.”
—Margo Grimm Eule, East City Bookshop (Washington, DC)
“Marvelous…mesmerizing. It was a book I couldn’t put down. It has stayed with me. All I can say is ‘WOW – read it. You won’t be disappointed.’”
—Virginia Holsten, Vinton Public Library (Vinton, IA)
“When the Apricots Bloom is an extraordinary novel, that is both poignant and hopeful. Friendship, family, trust and betrayal all factor into the lives of three remarkable women in Baghdad, under the suffocating reign of Saddam Hussein and his secret police. This powerful saga will have your heart racing, as these women risk everything for their children's freedom.”
—Maxwell Gregory, Lake Forest Book Store (Lake Forest, IL)
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