A freelance journalist and his brother get caught up in a geopolitical hornet’s nest when they travel to their ancestral land of Somalia.
A seasoned war correspondent based in New York City, Malik knows a thing or two about global hot spots. But even with stints in the Congo and Afghanistan under his belt, nothing prepares him for the surreal experience of landing in Mogadiscio, home to human traffickers and pirates alike. Fortunately, he is not alone. His Somali-born father-in-law, Jeebleh, has accompanied him, hoping to smooth the younger man’s way, and introduce him to some locals who will help him find sources for his stories, and keep him safe. Through Jeeblah he meets Bile, an ailing physician who, like Jeeblah, served time in jail as a political dissident. Bile lives with his much younger lover, Cambara, a situation that has not gone unnoticed by the ostensibly pious Union of Islamic Courts. Meanwhile, Malik’s bother Ahl has flown to the autonomous Somali state of Puntland to track down his teenage stepson Taxliil, who ran away from his Minnesota home with some other boys to join the Shabaab group of Islamic fighters. Desperate to bring the kid home before he martyrs himself, Ahl pleads with Malik to interview a dangerous local kingpin in hopes of gleaning info on Taxliil’s whereabouts. Risking his life, and those of the people around him, Malik discovers the symbiotic relationship between pirates and Islamic extremists, as well as the surprising origins of the piracy epidemic. Things get riskier still when U.S.-backed Ethiopian forces invade in an attempt to drive out the Islamist leadership. Harrowing without resorting to sensationalism, this highly topical final volume in Farah’s Past Imperfect trilogy (Knots, 2007, etc.) should burnish his well-deserved reputation. It is dense, complex stuff, but his brave and imperfect characters are a pleasure to follow.
Gripping but utterly humane thriller set in one of the least-understood regions on earth.