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99 Nights in Logar by Jamil Jan Kochai. Book review

February 7, 2019

Book cover for 99 nights in Logar.

Twelve-year-old Marwand is in Afghanistan with the rest of his family for the summer. It is a time to hang out and connect with his cousins in a land that has been ravaged by war and where the possibility of violence might not be far away. The reunion with every member of Marwand’s newly acquired extended family does not go well, because after taunting Budabash, the guard dog, the animal takes off the tip of Marwand’s finger in retaliation. Over a period of 99 nights Marwand goes on a quest to find Budabash who has escaped and taken off. In the process of this odyssey Marwand begins to learn a great deal about himself and his place in the world.

In many ways the basic premise of this story, a boy reconnecting with his roots and discovering himself in the process, could has been set anywhere in the world. The way the book is written, from a twelve-year-old’s viewpoint, really makes it feel like a memoir rather than a novel, adding to its credibility in the mind of a reader.

This is a story about the strength of family, the joys of family life and being a child. The warmth of the family really comes over, so much you want to be a part of it.

You can still be a child finding adventure, and getting into scrapes with your cousins, even in a place where danger potentially lurks around every corner from Afghan-American crossfire and “Ts” (Taliban) lurking in plain sight. Although there is constant threat to physical safety, but this is offset by a sense of this is a way of life to be pushed to one side and that communities and families have adjusted around it because they stick together.

There is animal cruelty throughout this novel, a society norm in this new world of Marwand’s, which he takes on as something acceptable and is probably an insight into how easily we can slip into what is normal for communities if we live within them.

In many ways Marwand’s voyage through this part of his life resembles a grouping of short stories in that this world is full of ordinary people with interesting life stories. As reality slips further into the relation of cultural stories become ever entwined with those of the real world.

Although told through a twelve-year-old’s eyes this is very much a book for adults, conceptually and with regards to the content.

Jamil Jan Kochai does write well and lyrically, so I will be interested in reading more of his work.

 99 Nights in Logar was courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing, via NetGalley.

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From → Book Review, Literary

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