cover image The Wasted Vigil

The Wasted Vigil

Nadeem Aslam, . . Knopf, $25 (319pp) ISBN 978-0-307-26842-6

Kiriyama-winner Aslam (Maps for Lost Lovers ) takes an ambitious and moving look at the human cost of Afghanistan's war-torn reality. Marcus, a British doctor, lives near Jalalabad and quietly mourns the loss of his Afghan wife, their grown daughter and his hand to the Taliban and tribal warring. His houseguests includes Lara, a Russian woman searching for the truth about her soldier brother's disappearance, and David, a formerly zealous CIA operative whose love for Marcus's murdered daughter binds him to the older man as they search for her missing son. There's a tremendous tension in the first half of the book as the connections between the characters and the country are built up, and Aslam exploits the setup perfectly when a cast of younger characters—a fervent jihadi, a charismatic but arrogant American soldier, a rebellious local schoolteacher—arrive at the house and bring danger with them. Lyrical but not overwritten, the novel creates an unflinchingly clear picture of a country whose history of strife is still being written. (Sept.)