Hana Doda is an ambitious literature student in cosmopolitan Tirana. Mark Doda is a raki-drinking, chain-smoking shepherd, living alone deep in the Albanian mountains. In fact, they are the same person. When Hana's dying uncle calls her home from the city, he asks her to marry a local boy in order to run the household. Unable to accept the arranged marriage but resolved to remain independent, she must vow in accordance with Albanian tradition to live the rest of her life in chastity as a man - and becomes Mark. There is no way back for a sworn virgin.Years later Mark receives an invitation to join a cousin in Rockville, Maryland. This is Mark's chance to escape his vow and to leave Albania for modern America. But what does he know about being a woman?
Born in Durrës, Albania, Elvira Dones is a novelist, screenwriter and documentary film-maker currently based in the US. After seven novels in Albanian, she wrote the two most recent in Italian, her adopted language: Vergine giurata (Sworn Virgin, 2007) and Piccola guerra perfetta (Small Perfect War, 2010) about the Kosovo war. In her prize-winning documentary on the phenomenon of ¿sworn virgins' in Albania, Dones interviews twelve survivors of the practice, one of whom has recently emigrated to the US, like Hana in the novel. A film of the novel Sworn Virgin is due out in 2014.