From a decorated veteran of the Iraq and Afghan Wars, and White House Fellow, a stirring debut novel about a young Afghan orphan and the harrowing, intractable nature of war.
Aziz and his older brother Ali are coming of age in a village amid the pine forests and endless mountains of eastern Afghanistan. There is no school, but their mother teaches them to read and write, and once a month sends the boys on a two-day journey to the bazaar. They are poor, but inside their mud-walled home, the family has stability, love, and routine.
When a convoy of armed men arrives in their village one day, their world crumbles. The boys survive and make their way to a small city, where they sleep among other orphans. They learn to beg, and, eventually, they earn work and trust from the local shopkeepers. Ali saves their money and sends Aziz to school at the madrassa, but when US forces invade the country, militants strike back. A bomb explodes in the market, and Ali is brutally injured.
In the hospital, Aziz meets an Afghan wearing an American uniform. To save his brother, Aziz must join the Special Lashkar, a US-funded militia. No longer a boy, but not yet a man, he departs for the untamed border. Trapped in a conflict both savage and entirely contrived, Aziz struggles to understand his place. Will he embrace the brutality of war or leave it behind, and risk placing his brother and a young woman he comes to love in jeopardy?
Hardcover, 256 pages
Expected publication: February 17th 2015 by Scribner
**I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher Scribner via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. The expected publication date is February 17th 2015**
For a short book this is not a light read. It explores the depths of a country in the middle of a war that nobody understands and the moral questions this raises. It asks the question...can both sides be wrong? Is it possible that there are no winners in war? I know what my opinion is however I will leave that debate for the reader.
This story is a little hard to take at times as many are that deal with this subject matter. All the while it is interesting as you want to see where it will lead you. Considering that Ackerman has served several tours of duty I imagine a lot of what was laid out on these pages are pretty accurate or as close to accurate as you can get for fiction. This in itself gave an added element of credibility to the story for me.
This story did have one flaw that I unfortunately could not get past. It was in the writing style and not within the plot. The entire plot was written that the dialogue did not contain any quotation making it difficult for me. I understand that this is a fairly common practice but with this story I found myself rereading several passages to make sure I understood. It took me some time to find a flow with it and I never really got fully comfortable with it by the end. Understanding that this is an advanced copy I really hope the final product adds quotations for the dialogue. It distracts from the story as it is.
This was an interesting read for me. I would not recommend it to those who are looking for a lighter read as the subject matter is pretty serious. Those interested in the war in Afghanistan and the country in general would enjoy this pick.
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