Bhutto really makes the Pakistan/Afghanistan border region come alive for me in this remarkable book. The level of mistrust and suffering is palpable, but at the same time, these characters are real people trying to somehow make real lives for themselves. Some are more prone to ideology than others. The violence here is very personal. When I finished I felt I had been holding my breath the entire time.
It's a short novel, perhaps a little too short. When I finished it, I set it down and sat there and thought about it for a good long while. First I had to figure out what exactly had happened, pulling clues from earlier in the book. Then I had to grapple with it. It's not an easy read, or a comforting one. But it is also not a rant about evil Americans. The characters who are angry are angry at their own government for, yes, working with the Americans, but also for oppressing their own people. This region does not feel fully part of Pakistan. Its identity is in flux. The characters are quiet, not babbling on to each other, but they are also fully developed, full of their own worries and passions.
I found this, in the end, both a wonderful and terrible read -- some of the events are horrifying (although not graphic). But it let me see another part of the world in an illuminating way, and I and deeply thankful for that.
I got a free copy of this from First to Read to review.