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The Orchard of Lost Souls    by Nadifa Mohamed order for
Orchard of Lost Souls
by Nadifa Mohamed
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2015 (2014)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

In the chaos that is Somalia, in a town called Hargeisa, three women meet at the celebration commemorating the military coup eighteen years ago. One is a nine-year-old orphan living in a refugee camp, who is to dance. Another is part of the army detailed to protect the Military-Governor. And the third attends with her friends, though none are there by choice.

As the story unfolds, we learn about each of these women individually. Deqo, the child, can never stop searching for the mother who bore her in the camp and then left. Filsan, the soldier, is trying to get out from under her father's strict rule and show she has it in her to be a leader. Only Kawsar has a somewhat satisfactory life. A widow, she enjoys helping her friends and living simply in her place with the beautiful garden. Unfortunately, everything changes at the celebration, where a small fracas ends up in violence and the end of Kawsar's independence.

Part Three of the book brings the characters together in ways they never would have thought possible. The abandonment of Hargeisa means that none of them have very much to live for, but Deqo figures out a way of hope, and in return gets a family she never before had.

This story is compelling, but it would have been better had we gotten a little bit deeper into the characters. The war-torn atmosphere is well rendered, and we definitely understand the anguish of the people living there.

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