million shadows

Reviewed by Amelie L.

“My name is Fawad, and my mother tells me I was born under the shadow of the Taliban.” So begins this beautiful and riveting book, astonishing in many ways not the least of which is that the author is not, in fact, a twelve year old Afghani boy.

The book’s point of view belongs to Fawad and his voice is pitch-perfect. Born Under a Million Shadows is a coming of age story and we are the lucky listeners.

Fawad is funny, wise and, because he is an Afghani telling us about his culture and country, unrelentingly interesting. Early in his tale, Fawad and his mother move from his Aunt’s house, “where we ate, lived and slept like tolerated prisoners,” to a small cottage all their own. The cottage is part of a larger house inhabited by the three people who become the axis around which Fawad’s journey to maturation revolves. There is Georgie, the first woman he meets there and the reason his mother is able to make the move, James, the other male on the premises and May, “who has the most enormous breasts I’d ever come across.”

The move changes Fawad and his mother’s life in every way. He goes from being an urchin begging on Chicken Street to the beloved mascot of his new territory. Born Under A Million Shadows provides a rich, detailed description of Afghanistan and the complicated relationship this country has to both its history and the vying forces of present-day. You cannot escape the beauty of the place but neither can you remain untouched by so much suffering. The landscape of war, deprivation, disease, politics and love are all spread across the map of this unique and ancient country through the direct, engaging observations of the narrator.

Every time I picked up this novel I became instantly engaged with Fawad’s story. I found Born Under A Million Shadows a fast and fascinating read. The storyteller is authentic, his insights wrenching in their simultaneous wisdom and innocence. I laughed, I cried, I passed this book on to a dear friend as a special gift.

Amelie lives and works on a pond in Cape Cod. She shares her home with her husband and two sons and both reads and writes whenever possible. Her ‘day job’ is in social services.

This book was provided free of any obligation by Holt Paperbacks. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.