17 December 2011

One Hundred And One Nights, Book review

Book description:

After 13 years in America, Abu Saheeh has returned to his native Iraq, a nation transformed by the American military presence. Alone in a new city, he has exactly what he wants: freedom from his past. Then he meets Layla, a whimsical fourteen-year-old girl who enchants him with her love of American pop culture. Enchanted by Layla's stories and her company, Abu Saheeh settles into the city's rhythm and begins rebuilding his life. But two sudden developments--his alliance with a powerful merchant and his employment of a hot-headed young assistant--reawaken painful memories, and not even Layla may be able to save Abu Saheeh from careening out of control and endangering all around them.

A breathtaking tale of friendship, love, and betrayal,
One Hundred and One Nights is an unforgettable novel about the struggle for salvation and the power of family.

My review:

I stand in awe for this story is not only hauntingly a part of actuality in Iraq, but as written by a Westerner, it is breathtaking! 
For his very first novel Benjamin Buchholtz introduces readers to a foreign world we have very little knowledge of yet he seduces us with tales of love, friendship and betrayals leaving us to find out more about Iraq.  Families have seen their loved ones departing to serve numerous missions in this country which was once called after all 'The Garden Of Eden' a country with many secrets!
As we welcome back many servicemen and women who have served in Iraq it is fitting we are given an idea of what life is truly like for its citizens, then and now, and the author excels in his descriptions!

Benjamin Buchholtz' approach is to introduce us to a man who is seemingly rebuilding his life in a country unlike the one he grew up in. The present for Abu Saheeh is like a mirage...There are flashbacks which helps us to understand what Iraq once was, what has been lost after years of war and its subsequent ravages. It is a window of opportunity in discovering the other side...and his use of the present tense makes it even more vivid!

The continuity described in the beginning of each chapter tells us something of the human stamina in surviving  oppressed regimes and invasions of one's country. It is survival of the fittest and we have seen enough photos to let us imagine if only for a moment what it does to man, woman and child.

Imagine for a moment the intricate invasion of sand following a storm...It infiltrates everything and leaves a sticky gritty residue. The Muslim world the author so well described is thoroughly unknown to us yet it intrigues and leaves us wondering...What life could we rebuild for ourselves shadowed by foreign powers with the limited resources allowed? What damages are hidden below the surface for so many and should it surface, which form will it take?

 (Photo taken in Safwan by B.Buchholtz)

This is not an easy book to read but I will highly recommend it! One Hundred and One Nights is told from a perspective other than the American point of view yet we soon discover Abu Saheeh has lived in America for thirteen years and the past, his past is haunting him! 
I will add a caution as this is after all a story about the aftermath of war and as such should be labeled for 'mature readers'.
It is however a story which will stay with you, it holds so many emotions! 

About the author:

In 2005, U.S. soldier Benjamin Buchholtz deployed to Iraq as a civil affairs officer, a liaison to the local community in the border town of Safwan. His impression of that war-ravaged country is encapsulated in this "cathartic" debut novel.
After recently completing an additional assignment in Oman, Buchholz is currently working on a master's degree in Near Eastern studies at Princeton. He also writes a Middle East culture blog, Not Quite Right, and is drafting his second novel.

This story is worth every 5 stars I have given it and I am looking forward to read Benjamin Buchholtz next novel (Taxi to Queen Alia) a tale revolving around the assassination of an American diplomat and his wife outside the US Embassy in Amman, Jordan leaving two children seat belted into the backseat of a taxi whilst their parents are killed. The taxi driver panics, flees the scene and we are to discover how two American children survives in a foreign culture.

I received this book free from HACHETTE BOOK GROUP as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not asked to write a positive review and the opinions expressed are entirely my own.
I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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