The Blind Mans Garden by Aslam

The Blind Man’s Garden
Nadeem Aslam

Vintage International 2014
ISBN: 978-0-345-80285-9

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“. . . a powerful and memorable story.”

Nadeem Aslam’s engrossing novel “The Blind Man’s Garden,” is a journey into the tragic consequences of world terrorism. His characters tread so close to our reality they evoke personal anguish and hopelessness for the innocent people of Afghanistan and Pakistan who suffered under America’s “rain of fire” in a war they called, “The Battle of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.”

Many of these unwitting victims whose world “was torn apart, by bombs and fire-shells” had never heard of New York City. At the same time, hardline Islamic extremists and warlords took full advantage of war’s tumult, squeezing those caught in between even tighter.

Aslam’s story begins with Jeo, a Pakistan medical student, and his foster brother, Mikal, who oppose both the Taliban and Americans, as they head into the mountains of Afghanistan to help the wounded. Early into their journey, Jeo caught in a battle between Americans and the Taliban and is killed. Mikal is captured and sold to a warlord, who in turn sells him to the Americans who pay $5,000 per suspected terrorists. Aslam offers vivid details to describe the horrific torture of Mikal.

This is also a love story. Mikal was always in love with Jeo’s wife, Naheed, but because Mikal had nothing to offer, her mother had arranged the marriage to Jeo. Throughout Mikal’s journey back to Pakistan, a parallel tale emerges. Rohan, Jeo’s father, not knowing about his son’s death, has gone to search for him. But he is captured and blinded by a warlord. He returns to Pakistan, only to find hardline Islamists have wired bombs in and around a school full of children. One woman cries that now Muslims are killing Muslims.

Aslam merges historical events and superstitions with a blend of magical realism into a poetic voice to produce a powerful and memorable story. Each word he deploys draws you deeper into the lives of his characters. Aslam humanizes war victims and how it was at times impossible to distinguish a true enemy.

A Pakistani native, Aslam, 48, lived most of his life in England where his family was exiled because of his father’s activist ties. He’s already achieved acclaim for his previous novels, “The Wasted Vigil,” and “Maps for Lost Lovers.”

Reviewer: Kate Padilla