A nonfiction novel, recounted in part from contemporary oral history.
Ten-year-old Enaiatollah (Enaiat) Akbari lives with his mother in Ghazni province, in Afghanistan, and neither one knows his life is about to change forever. One day the Taliban arrive at his school and tell the headmaster to shut it down, but he ignores—or perhaps defies—them. Two days later, the Taliban show up again, put the headmaster within a circle of students and shoot him. Thus begins Enaiat’s odyssey from his village, and he’s not to settle down again for five long and precarious years. Soon after the incident at his school, his mother gives her son three pieces of advice—don’t use drugs, don’t use weapons, don’t cheat or steal—and then she takes off, leaving Enaiat to fend for himself. He starts a pattern of relying on traffickers to get him across sundry borders, first to Pakistan, then to Iran, Turkey, Greece and, finally—at the age of 15—Italy, where he’s able to get asylum and start school again. Along the way he has various jobs, mostly selling wares on the streets or working illegally (and dangerously) on construction sites. He also relies on the kindness of strangers, a Greek woman, for example, who clothes him and gives him food and money. And while from an objective perspective Enaiat’s life is both unsafe and high-risk, he never loses his innate optimism or his buoyant pluckiness and ingenuity.One marvels that Enaiat has told his life adventure to Italian author Geda, and while the novelist has evidently shaped Enaiat’s story for publication, at its core is an authentic, open and marvelous voice of youthful exuberance.