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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Wasted Vigil, by Nadeem Aslam, 2008 * * * * *

An ambitious and moving look at the human cost of Afghanistan's war-torn reality. It reveals the impact of the large historical and religious forces that deals with the decades of war, exploitation, and fundamentalist repression and its effects on the lives of five remarkable characters. Marcus, an English doctor who has lived in Afghanistan for many years, married an Afghan woman, Qatrina, and converted to Islam; David, a former cold war spy for the US, who has returned to Afghanistan to try to discover the fate of the boy he thinks of as his son; Lara, a Russian woman who is searching for her brother, Benedikt, a soldier who went AWOL during the Soviet invasion; Casa, a bitterly angry young jihadi eager to give his life for Islam; and James, an American special forces agent willing to go to any lengths to protect America from Islamic terrorists. Lyrical but not overwritten, the novel creates an unflinchingly clear picture of a country whose history of strife is still being written. This book is more complex than A Thousand Splendid Suns, and should be read by anyone who loved that book and wants to move further. This book was orginally recommended to me by one of my daughers who heard a review on NPR. To be fair and honest, she liked A Thousand Splendid Sons and The Kite Runner, both by Khaled Hosseinim better than Wasted Vigil. On the other hand, I found this to be a remarkable novel and one of the best books I have read in several years. It is increasingly relevant today given the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

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