The story of an Iraqi and an Iranian who became “as close as real brothers, with blended families and shared histories.”
During the horrific Battle of Khorramshahr in 1982, part of the Iran-Iraq War, Haftlang, at the age of 13, was serving as an Iranian soldier when he decided to spare the life of Iraqi soldier Aboud. Here, with the assistance of former San Francisco Chronicle features writer May, the two former enemy soldiers relate their brutal saga, which features an unexpected resolution. Readers learn about Haftlang’s brutal childhood in Iran and Aboud’s relatively prosperous existence as a restaurant/bakery manager in Iraq. After the bloody battlefield encounter in which the severely wounded Aboud would have died without the inexplicably compassionate decision by Haftlang, the combatants certainly never expected to meet again. During the extended conflict led by Saddam Hussein and Ayatollah Khomeini, Haftlang and Aboud both ended up as prisoners of war. Much of the book offers graphic details about the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by the Iranians and vice versa. Certainly, some readers will find the details of torture nauseating and may need to skip ahead, but the story is worth persevering. After Haftlang and Aboud were allowed to return to their homelands following years of captivity, they discovered that their families and friends had assumed they were dead. Each man eventually found a way to immigrate to Canada, where, during a chance encounter at the Vancouver Association for the Survivors of Torture in 2001, they realized their connection on the battlefield two decades earlier. They formed a friendship transcending nationality, language differences, and age, and their tale, which alternates throughout the book, is quite remarkable.
Despite the unrelenting passages of human suffering, the authors offer a fascinating—and ultimately uplifting—exploration of cultures unknown to many readers.