So many scenes from this book are still stuck in my head after finishing it two weeks ago. I had to keep reminding myself while reading it that it was a true story and not fiction.
Not only is the family’s personal story of survival unbelievable, but also the larger story of how the Mujahedin toppled the Russian backed government in the early 90’s, only to be driven out by the Taliban (before reading this I didn’t even know the difference between the two groups.)
At one point I realized that the author was exactly my age when he described what the situation like when he should’ve started high school in 1996, and I cried, thinking of how innocent and oblivious my childhood was compared to the things he had seen. Cried in total disbelief that terrorists could treat people like this under the guise of “religion”.
The book is completely heart wrenching and fascinating. Two things that really surprised me were how nice the city of Kabul sounds before the war, and that the ordinary citizens (including this well off educated family) had little idea of who the Taliban was before they arrived, nor did they know who Osama bin Laden was until 9/11.
I loved reading about how the families lived in large compounds with a courtyard in the middle filled with gardens where they all ate together with their aunts and uncles and cousins. The author talks a lot about how important his extended family was in his life – cousins were like brothers and sisters. It especially struck a chord because I read the book while on vacation with Nathan’s family, with cousins Jane rarely gets to see, and I was saddened by how distant we are with our families in the U.S. in comparison to many other countries.
My bottom line review for anyone is read it, read it, read it. The writing is excellent, story is fast paced, and the whole thing will give you a lot to think about.