June 20, 2013

A Fort of Nine Towers by Qais Akbar Omar

When people hear "Afghanistan" a lot of things come to their minds. Some think of terrorism and Al-Qaeda. Others think of their loved ones overseas there. But a few might think of the lives of the everyday people there and what they have suffered through. For those people, this book opens that up to what the average family endured in the last twenty years in Afghanistan.

Qais Akbar Omar was seven when his country devolved into chaos. His family, fairly affluent, were almost immediately targeted by corrupt officials and members of the different factions that vied for power. Even more harrowing were the rockets that rained down on the city, destroying everything in their wake. Forced to move from their home, they found refuge in a friend's home and also traveling around as they searched for a way to leave the country. But bad luck followed them everywhere they went and Qais had to endure some very hard times and horrors beyond imagining.

Qais tells everything like it happened. Whether describing a family member or a stranger, it seems like he tells exactly the truth as he knows it about them and doesn't elaborate. Even in his well-respected father and grandfather he is able to still admire them despite their flaws and he doesn't write them as perfect beings, just good ones. He's a little rough on his one sister, but it sounded as if she had a lot of laughs at his expense. And he does a lot of soul searching himself and strives to be a better person, despite setbacks. As for the evil people he describes in this book, they truly are evil, and it is horrific he had to experience what he did.

This is a hard book to read. And it's even harder because it's true. Many will compare it to "The Kite Runner" but that book is fiction. This stuff really happened and it makes it that much worse. But it is also interesting. While I know there has been war over there once America entered the mix, I didn't know about all the fighting between the factions before that time. And all the atrocities committed against the regular people was also an eye-opener. It's amazing that Qais is as good a person as he is since violence often begets violence. But he overcomes it, and that is admirable. Add in his writing skills and this is a book to be reckoned with, as he draws you in and keeps you hooked through the whole book.

A very well done book and a scary, yet hopeful look into Afghanistan and its people.

A Fort of Nine Towers
Copyright 2013
388 pages

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