BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

99 Nights in Logar by Jamil Jan Kochai [in Booklist]

During summer 2005, when “the American war was sort of dozing,” 12-year-old Marwand, his brother, and mother arrived in Logar, Afghanistan to visit extended family. The six years since Marwand’s last visit from the U.S. isn’t enough for Budabash – more wolf than dog – to have forgotten Marwand’s previous attacks.

In payback, the dog viciously bites the boy, then runs away. Marwand, two “little uncles” (‘little’ because of their proximity in age to Marwand), and a cousin embark on an epic adventure to bring Budabash back, providing the narrative scaffolding onto which aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and even strangers add endless stories – mythic, historical, revelatory, magical – that reveal a community beset by continuous assaults yet surviving (mostly) and even laughing (sometimes).

Ali Nasser reads Logar-native, Iowa Writers’ Workshop-trained Jamil Jan Kochai’s debut with a distinct rhythmic cadence that amplifies the sense of immersive storytelling. The single interruption occurs in the penultimate chapter when Uncle Watak’s woven-throughout-the-narrative mysterious demise is ultimately revealed, but only in Pakhto (seemingly not voiced by Nasser), creating a resonating reminder that language – in an uncertain world of violent shifts and peripatetic populations – can enable access but also prove impenetrable.

Review: “Media,” Booklist, January 3, 2020

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2019


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