In Ackerman’s debut novel, young Aziz Iqtbal and his older brother, Ali, live in the remote agriculture hamlet of Sperkai, Afghanistan, until a mortar round fired by the Taliban leader Garzan destroys their home and family. Left as orphans, the two brothers escape to the nearby city of Orgun, where they scrape by as panhandlers and transporters in the bazaar, until another explosion leaves Ali legless and requiring expensive long-term hospitalization. Aziz agrees to serve in the Special Lashkar, an American-backed local militia unit, in exchange for Ali’s medical care. Aziz swears as well to follow the Pashtun tribal code to avenge his crippled brother’s honor by fighting against Garzan. Aziz becomes a trained combatant and joins a unit opposing Garzan. While stationed at the firebase near the strategic border village of Gomal, Aziz associates with the corrupt American military liaison known as Mr. Jack and visits the village leader, Atal. An edgy romance emerges when Aziz falls in love with Atal’s ward, Fareeda, also damaged by the war. Aziz is thrown into the maelstrom of deceit, greed, and betrayal as the different factions extend the war for personal gain. Ackemna’s novel is bleak and uncompromising, a powerful war story that borders on the noir. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/22/2014 Release date: 02/17/2015 Genre: Fiction
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.