Details of Afghan tribal life and family well-delineated.



A Western writer affectingly takes up the voice of a beleaguered Afghan man and his harrowing flight out of his war-torn country.

McLean assumes the first-person point of view of Baryalai Popal, an Afghan refugee who is now an American citizen. Popal, who hails from one of two “royal families” of Afghanistan, was forced to flee the country with the invasion of the Soviets in 1980 because of his deep family ties. McLean moves back and forth in time to tell Popal’s story, from his perilous flight out of Kabul in October 1980, when the Soviet police were searching his home for him, through an arduous journey into Pakistan and eventual flight out of Karachi to Turkey, and then Germany, where he was able to claim asylum and bring his wife and children, thanks to help from the American consulate. Through the story of Popal, a shortening of the family name Popalzai, the historic enemy of the Barakzai, McLean weaves a fascinating story about family and tribal ties within a culture used to being overrun by foreigners (British, Russian, American) and marked by ongoing traditions that mark loyalty to family, such as hospitality to foreigners. Popal’s father, Abdul Rahman Popal, studied in Paris in the 1920s at the dictates of the modernizing King Amanullah and Gen. Nadir. He was subsequently summoned to serve in many advisory roles, as leaders changed sides depending on the way the political wind was blowing. As a result, Popal the son could rely on many extended friends and acquaintances in his flight to Pakistan, although he largely depended on his wits to survive. Ultimately, the book delineates a sense of what it means to hail from a proud Afghan family in the throes of violence.

Details of Afghan tribal life and family well-delineated.

Pub Date: June 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61234-897-1

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Potomac Books

Review Posted Online: April 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?