Entangled Lives takes place in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan in the 90’s and early 2000’s, with a few scenes in the US. A small part of the narrative takes place in Bangladesh and Pakistan in the 1970’s.
Raza and Parveen, Raza’s mother Tara, and Rachael: different characters, but all linked together by an invisible string, and pulled apart by war, human nature, and greed.
Imran Omer does an amazing job of creating a novel that is both historical (including recent history) fiction and fact, delving deep into the history of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, into conflicts, blurry borders, cultural clashes, religion and the differing of beliefs within the same religion, and humanity. You learn a lot about the history of the three countries in Entangled Lives, most of which you won’t really know about unless you have studied the region in some depth.
Raza, orphaned at an early age, grows up in a madrassah in Pakistan. In his teens he runs away with Parveen who has been promised to a prominent ruler in the area. They are captured and Parveen is sent to jail, while Raza is sold to the Taliban as a martyr, and sent to fight in Afghanistan. Before he leaves he receives his deceased mother’s journal as a parting gift, where he learns about his background. In the meantime, Rachael, a journalist from the US, sets off to cover the conflict in Afghanistan, and sees the Taliban takeover of the country firsthand. Several spur of the moment decisions link Raza and Rachael’s lives together with a force that neither of them would have thought would happen. There is a LOT more to the story, but I want to stay away from spoilers in my review!
There was so much I appreciated about this book, alongside the story itself. I really appreciated the insight into feminism in the Afghani context, something that white feminism has a lot to learn from. This book may have been written by a man, but there are some very pertinent points brought up that cannot be ignored when it comes to women and feminism in the Middle East, and the way occidental feminism can often be dismissive of Middle Eastern women. I also deeply appreciated the characters and their humanness, something that it might be hard to see in a member of the Taliban at a first glance. And also I appreciated that there were no excuses made for certain events and happenings, but that the narrative provides insight into how nothing is ever cut and dry, especially when it comes to war, poverty, and choices.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy!