Deeply disturbing but also moving; will haunt readers long after the last page.

THE SENTIMENTAL TERRORIST

A NOVEL OF AFGHANISTAN

Talwar’s novel set in modern-day Afghanistan takes a volatile topic—a jihadist preparing to attack a guesthouse in Kabul—and explores the characters involved with empathy and insight.

The storyline, which takes place in the hours leading up to the attack, is narrated in large part from three points of view: Mohsin, the Afghan jihadist; Amala, an aid worker originally from Bangladesh staying at the guesthouse; and James, the British security consultant who loves her. As Mohsin contemplates what he is about to do, he retraces the steps in his life that got him to this bleak point. He’d been a promising architecture and urban planning student at Islamabad University, then a charity worker helping rural communities in Afghanistan. His life turned when he witnessed his entire family killed (while attending an outdoor wedding) by an American air attack, the orders for which were based on misinformation. Talwar’s compelling narrative examines people on both sides of this story—the terrorists and the victims—with an unbiased eye. Mohsin, in particular, is a dynamic character—an intelligent, compassionate, heroic man who somehow finds himself minutes away from participating in an act of terrorism that will undoubtedly kill innocent people. The novel—which is thematically reminiscent of Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner—isn’t so much about war, but about the consequences of war as well as life in modern-day Afghanistan, the cultural oppression of women, political instability, religious bigotry and the blatant disregard of basic human rights. A line from the book is fitting: “When elephants fight, it’s the grass that gets trampled.”

Deeply disturbing but also moving; will haunt readers long after the last page.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1477603819

Page Count: 288

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2012

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As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

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THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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