cover image The Blind Man's Garden

The Blind Man's Garden

Nadeem Aslam. Knopf, $26.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-307-96171-6

When foster brothers Jeo and Mikal decide to leave Pakistan for Afghanistan in order to help the wounded, they have no idea what this simple desire to help will cost themselves and their loved ones. Award-winning novelist Nadeem Aslam's fourth novel (The Wasted Vigil, Maps for Lost Lovers) chronicles the story of a family in Pakistan immediately after 9/11, where politics and religion color almost every aspect of daily life but love and family still reign supreme. Although the plot turns on the American and Taliban presence in Afghanistan, the focus is on humanizing those that get caught in between and the personal reasons that inform their decisions and alliances. While Jeo and Mikal navigate the dangers of Afghanistan, Jeo's bride, Naheed, helps her father-in-law, Rohan, transition into a life without sight. The relationship between the Christian school where Rohan's daughter, Yasmin, and her husband work and the rest of the community also becomes fraught with hostility, as militant Islamists begin to question its presence. Aslam shows the difficulties of living in a place where religion rules everyday living, but stresses the universality of their sufferings and desires. There are fits of beauty and lyricism through the novel, but the uneven pacing leaves the novel unbalanced. However, Aslam gives an empathetic, unbiased look at one of the most polarizing issues of the day and allows us to see the humanity in those that we call our enemy. (May)