Meredith's Challenge 2.0

52 books, one year. Stay tuned for more details.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

#37 The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

I'd heard good things about Bookseller, then there was the controversy about the family's patriarch being angry at Seierstad for portraying the family in a negative light, apparently I now have a thing for books about Afghanistan, which I was debating with myself if it was about Afghanistan or Iran, berating myself for being so ignorant as to not know which the book was about and this is a fantastic run-on sentence, if I do say so myself.

So, I read this and um, I don't know how I feel about it. I think its a fascinating premise, and it's pretty incredible that the author was allowed to move in with the family and shadow its members. I felt bad for everyone, except the family patriarch, the women and men. The women have very little in the way of personal freedom, they can't leave the house without permission, can't go to school, find a job, marry who they wish, spend time how they want with whom they want. Despite, the fact that the Taliban is no longer in power, the women are still afraid of what will happen to them if they don't act the way that is expected of them. And with good reason, the women who act outside of tradition are murdered by their family members. The young men in the family are just as subserviant to the patriarch, they have to do whatever he wants, however he wants, whenever he wants, or face his wrath and possible disowning. Everyone in Bookseller is afraid. I guess it comes with the territory of living in unstable country that has had decades of civil war and multiple political upheavals in a very short amount of time.

I know that this is about real people but I feel like the multiple threads of stories were just too much to follow at once, especially since they don't really come together in the end. I really wanted to know more about Leila, the youngest daughter and I feel like Seierstad really wanted to focus on her too, but kind of dropped the ball along the way. Leila's story is the most compelling, but the reader doesn't find out what really happens to her in the end. The book just ends, with no real conclusion and the afterward doesn't help. I liked The Kite Runner much more in this regard, even though that is mostly fiction I thought it was better constructed and more heartfelt.


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