BY HOWARD FABER
OMAHA: WRITELIFE PUBLISHERS, 2012
168 PAGES, ISBN: 978-1608080519, PAPERBACK
Reviewed by David Huebner
A Far Away Home is a candid portrayal of life in Afghanistan over the past fifty plus years. In some countries such a story might be mundane or trivial. However, the life of protagonist Ali takes us through successive oppressors—the Soviets and the Taliban—and the entrance of the US military into Afghanistan in 2001. This is a novel that alternates between anguish and despair to hope and triumph in the face of odds most Americans never face!
While this novel is geared toward middle school students, it resonates well with high school students. The sentences are uncomplicated and to the point, yet provide vivid pictures and intriguing stories of growing up, living, and surviving in Afghanistan over several recent decades. Indeed, as an adult, I found the saga of Ali’s upbringing, with all the struggles and challenges he faced, captivating!
Ali encounters severe handicaps from his birth: a “bent” left leg; the lack of medical help available in the small town of Sharidure, teasing children who mock his handicap; and crude, hand-made crutches. In 1965, when he was eight, Ali and his father, Hassan, make their way in a treacherous journey to Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, to seek corrective surgery for his misshaped leg. But, the trip ends in disappointment with a doctor’s diagnosis that there are no available medical procedures in Afghanistan to correct such a deficit. However, with the surprise arrival of medical personnel in Sharidue not long after Ali’s trip to Kabul, Ali is able to secure life-changing surgery to correct his medical condition.
Although we might think that Ali’s life of ingenuity and resourcefulness does not begin until after this critical surgery, his constant creativity is first noted with the advent of Sharidue’s small and new hospital. To get supplies to Sharidue, an airfield is built out of sheer rock over difficult terrain. But Ali stretches beyond the traditions of his village. In a culture accustomed to using cattle for clearing land, Ali suggests horses, and it works! Besides taking up the challenge from the American pilot “Dan” to learn how to fly, Ali manifests his quick inventiveness throughout the novel—from his plan during his teen years to ambush Russian soldiers, to his resistance tactics against the Taliban, to commitment to excellence as Sharidue’s only carpenter, to the sweeping of airplane tracks off the runway to fool the Taliban—Ali is a master of quick thinking and ingenuity!
The book takes us through Ali’s years of living in neighboring Iran (you will have to read the book to find out how he ended up there), where he marries and has children, his subsequent return to Afghanistan early in 2001, and his role as the village leader and spokesperson to deal with US troops after 9/11. He ignites the courage of his village with his pledge to resist the Taliban and conceives of several plans to thwart the Taliban’s at- tempts to storm Sharidue.
I thoroughly enjoyed the many anecdotes and life lessons in A Far Away Home. This quick-read novel is an engaging story of overcoming severe physical challenges, resisting oppressors, and making a better life for Ali’s people and family in Sharidue. It is a rewarding story of leadership, hope, love of family, and the struggles of a faraway people.