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The Wasted Vigil    by Nadeem Aslam order for
Wasted Vigil
by Nadeem Aslam
Order:  USA  Can
Vintage, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

Afghanistan: 'Pull a thread here and you'll find it's attached to the rest of the world.' Nadeem Aslam demonstrates this in The Wasted Vigil, a harrowing but important account of fatally intertwined lives.

Marcus, an Englishman who married and lost his Afghan wife, hosts David, a former member of the CIA. A Russian widow searching for information about her soldier brother arrives. A planned Taliban attack in the area causes a young Afghan operative also to shelter with Marcus. David's protégé in the CIA then appears as part of the mission that has been put together to counter the attack. The background story of these people is slowly unraveled to reveal how much their lives have intersected through acts of love and war.

This is an exceedingly complex novel but well worthy of our attention. Author Aslam includes stunning moments of beauty, depicting Afghanistan's rich cultural history, its natural wonders and creative artists at work. We also get inside the mind of a young man thoroughly indoctrinated in his faith by extremists, and begin to understand how impossible it is for Muslim fundamentalists to understand what the West is trying to accomplish and, very importantly, vice versa.

The situation depicted in the novel is truly a minefield of misunderstanding, and if Aslam is correct, it will not be cleared up until individuals are able to look beyond their deep acculturation to appreciate or at least accept the other side without judgment. Until then, despite the love and humanitarian hope of many, the only options that remain are war and great suffering for everyone.

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