cover image The Watch

The Watch

Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya. Random/Hogarth, $25 (304p) ISBN 978-0-307-95589-0

When a vicious firefight erupts after the Taliban attack a mountainous, remote American military garrison, Combat Outpost Tarsândan in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan, the American forces suffer heavy losses, including their popular Lt. Nick Frobenius. Then Nizam, a legless Pashtun girl, scuttles up on the “bleak wasteland” battlefield with a request to bury her slain Pashtun brother according to the tenets of their faith. The straitlaced leader, Capt. Evan Connolly, rejects her claim that her brother wasn’t a Taliban commander and orders the obstinate, proud girl to leave. Her refusal triggers a bizarre, poignant two-day standoff between the girl and the U.S. military, during which the Americans begin to doubt their purpose in Afghanistan. The officers and GIs, seeing the folly of their mission, lobby Connolly to give the body, which the U.S. military plans to use for anti-Taliban propaganda purposes, to Nizam for a proper interment. Seamless time shifts illuminate the well-drawn stories of many soldiers, the most thorough of which is assembled from the journals kept by Lieutenant Frobenius, a classics scholar. Every war spawns its major literary works, and Roy-Bhattacharya’s (The Storyteller of Marrakesh) powerful, modern take on the Afghanistan armed conflict resonates with the echoes of Joseph Heller, Tim O’Brien, and Robert Stone. Agent: Nicole Aragi, the Aragi Agency. (June)