This heartbreaking and haunting novel takes a timeless tragedy and hurls it into present-day Afghanistan, when a woman asks for the return of her brother's body in the midst of a war.
Following a desperate night-long battle, a group of beleaguered soldiers in an isolated base in Kandahar are faced with a lone woman demanding the return of her brother’s body. Is she a spy, a black widow, a lunatic, or is she what she claims to be: a grieving young sister intent on burying her brother according to local rites? Single-minded in her mission, she refuses to move from her spot on the field in full view of every soldier in the stark outpost. Her presence quickly proves dangerous as the camp’s tense, claustrophobic atmosphere comes to a boil when the men begin arguing about what to do next.
Taking its cues from the Antigone myth, Roy-Bhattacharya brilliantly recreates the chaos, intensity, and immediacy of battle, and conveys the inevitable repercussions felt by the soldiers, their families, and by one sister. The result is a gripping tour through the reality of this very contemporary conflict, and our most powerful expression to date of the nature and futility of war.
When a vicious firefight erupts after the Taliban attack a mountainous, remote American military garrison, Combat Outpost Tars ndan in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan, the American forces suffer heavy losses, including their popular Lt. Nick Frobenius. Then Nizam, a legless Pashtun girl, scuttles up on the "bleak wasteland" battlefield with a request to bury her slain Pashtun brother according to the tenets of their faith. The straitlaced leader, Capt. Evan Connolly, rejects her claim that her brother wasn't a Taliban commander and orders the obstinate, proud girl to leave. Her refusal triggers a bizarre, poignant two-day standoff between the girl and the U.S. military, during which the Americans begin to doubt their purpose in Afghanistan. The officers and GIs, seeing the folly of their mission, lobby Connolly to give the body, which the U.S. military plans to use for anti-Taliban propaganda purposes, to Nizam for a proper interment. Seamless time shifts illuminate the well-drawn stories of many soldiers, the most thorough of which is assembled from the journals kept by Lieutenant Frobenius, a classics scholar. Every war spawns its major literary works, and Roy-Bhattacharya's (The Storyteller of Marrakesh) powerful, modern take on the Afghanistan armed conflict resonates with the echoes of Joseph Heller, Tim O'Brien, and Robert Stone.