I recently took a trip to my local library after absolute ages and managed to find some really great books – including this one! As soon as I read the blurb I was immediately drawn to it due to the setting and the sound of the storyline – and I was pleased to find it didn’t disappoint.
Jeo and Mikal, foster-brothers from a small Pakistani city, secretly enter Afghanistan: not to fight with the Taliban, but to help and care for wounded civilians. But it soon becomes apparent that good intentions can’t keep them out of harm’s way…
From the wilds of Afghanistan to the heart of the family left behind – their blind father haunted for years by the death of his wife, by the mistakes he may have made in the name of Islam and nationhood, Jeo’s steadfast wife and her superstitious mother – Aslam’s prose takes us on an extraordinary journey.
One of my favourite books of all time is A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini – ever since I read it, I have been on the search for another book which I would enjoy in the same way. So when I picked up The Blind Man’s Garden – I was really hopeful.
- My favourite element of this book was Aslams absolutely stunning description – whereby even the smallest or quietest moments were written so beautifully that I could picture everything so vividly and I found myself totally immersed in the story.
“Love was the result of having caught a glimpse of another’s loneliness.”
“He had loved Mikal since they were ten years old…. This almost-brother. This blood-love in everything but name.”
“The scent of the tree’s flowers can stop conversation. Rohan knows no purer source of melancholy.”
“The sky is a blue so clean it verges on joy.”
“How easy it is to create ghosts, he thinks as he begins to die a minute later, feeling his mind closing chamber by chamber, the memory of Naheed contained in each one. And despite it all it means much to have been loved. Just before the world vanishes, a hope surfaces in him that this wasn’t necessarily everything, that he will return somehow.
His arm rises, remembering when it used to be a wing.”
- I enjoyed these characters overall – some more than others. Mikal’s innate goodness and love for his family made his perspective enjoyable. I liked Naheed, she was a strong feminine presence and I felt like I understood her. Rohan – Mikals foster father, was my favourite character by far though – he is tortured by his past and the loss of his wife and seems like such a genuinely good person that I couldn’t help but feel for him.
- The plot itself has it’s ups and downs, at times it goes a mile a minute and at others it’s painstakingly slow – I think it suffers with some pacing issues.
- The sense of danger is rife in this story and some scenes were SO tense – from the parts of the novel where Jeo and Mikal are abandoned and taken captive by the Taliban to the female characters struggles with harassment.
- The book definitely deals with difficult topics in regards to Islam and the Western world and the experience of living in a post 9/11 Pakistan and Afghanistan. I can’t speak for whether this depiction is true to life as I have not lived in either of these places or survived what the characters in the novel have but it was certainly very thought provoking and I think it brings very valid and sometimes uncomfortable realities to life.
- As a Muslim myself, I enjoyed seeing all the references to Islam and I believe Aslams own background helps in portraying the intricacy and beauty of it. There were so many moments where I could relate and recall moments in my own life in regards to my faith and this is something rare and special.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book, it was a wonderful combination of beautiful prose and sufficient cultural understanding. It made for a very good read and I would definitely read more of Aslams writing. While A Thousand Splendid Suns is still in the number one spot, The Blind Man’s Garden is definitely an admirable contender.
★★★★- 4 Star Rating
Does The Blind Man’s Garden sound like a book you would read? Do you enjoy books which explore difficult topics like this? Would love to chat in the comments!
Until next time,