Entangled Lives

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 21 Aug 2018

Member Reviews

This was definitely one of the best books I've read this year. I have been reading a lot of Pakistani and other authors from Muslim-majority countries this year and I was so grateful to be offered the opportunity to review this book by NetGalley UK and John Hunt Publishing Ltd.

The story is told from the perspective of both Raza, a Pakistani and Rachael, an American journalist. I much preferred the sections featuring Raza but it was interesting - and necessary - to hear Rachael's perspective especially since it was written by a Pakistani author. 

I do not want to give any of the story away - other reviews provide a comprehensive synopsis, but I'd just like to say that this is an extremely important read for the following reasons 1) it sheds light on the complexity of any given situation especially those faced by marginalised people living in areas affected by protracted conflict - it humanises those demonised in the media 2) it provides a layered and nuanced perspective of the conflict from the side that we do not hear about in the west 3) it is well written.
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A fascinating book, told from two viewpoints - that of an American journalist and that of a reluctant jihadist who is drawn into the Afghan conflict. The book details the appalling circumstances of the young boy who is abandoned and ends up in a madrassah, which sets him on the path to fighting for the Taliban despite all his efforts to avoid it. The paths of the two protagonists are, as the title says, 'entangled' throughout the story.
Despite the rather abrupt ending, this book is definitely worth reading.
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I found this really intriguing and it occurred to me how little mainstream literature there is dealing with the subject of terrorism in a way that doesn't demonise one side or the other.  Here we meet Raza, already interred in Guantanamo Bay, and it's easy to make our judgement right away. His story is told via flashbacks and makes uncomfortable reading. We learn how orphaned boys often end up in sometimes-corrupt madrassas where they are frequently abused or used, depending on the needs of the powerful. The treatment of girls is no less distressing and the tale of Parveen is bleak indeed. So not a summer beach read,  but an important story, told well from various perspectives, both Western and Eastern, male and female (though only the Western woman is given a voice).
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When I saw this book and read the synopsis I knew it was a book I needed to read, obviously I also was aware it may be a difficult read as some aspects were portraying Islam in a slightly negative light When very often it is culture that is to blame. But I was really surprised it wasn't as bad as I thought. In fact I found the story beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time! Okay the writing style at times I found it rather descriptive so I would loose concentration but then it would rectify itself and because the plot was quite intense it kept you going. I am happy this book was written it is a taboo reality and is something that needs to be discussed and sorted! Life is rarely straight forward and perfect. If you like books that have real life plots with romance but also have political influence then you will love this. I would certainly read more from this author and I am so grateful I was given the chance to read it for an honest review. I apologize my review is late due to 'real life issue's Which is what makes this book so special. I hope people give it a try as is both ugly and beautiful in their best forms.
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I was drawn to Entangled Lives by the ambiguous expression in the eyes of the man on its cover and when I discovered that this is an #ownvoices novel written by a Pakistani author, I knew I wanted to read it. Omer has made one of his protagonists a Taliban soldier which I felt was a brave step in the current political climate, especially as this soldier, Raza, tells us his story unapologetically. We follow his life from young orphaned child to American prison camp and so see the realities of life for poor families in Pakistan. Raza's family were Afghan refugees reduced to the most basic existence within Pakistan. And theirs is by no means an isolated case. Over decades from the partition of India in the 1940s to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s and beyond, the waves of migration from people seeking to escape conflict is overwhelming. Poor people of all faiths in this part of Asia have seemingly become so inured to growing up without hope of much more than simple survival that for Raza, as the example in this story, although he has some awareness that perhaps he shouldn't blindly believe everything he is taught in the madrassah, the reality is that he has no choice other than appearing to do so.



After we have learned much of Raza's life, the viewpoint switches to Rachael's story which, I admit, did briefly annoy me because I was so engrossed in reading about Raza. I initially didn't think I wanted to read about yet another entitled American journalist sweeping untouched through a poorer nation's civil war. As it turned out however Rachael's role is deeper than showing us Afghanistan from a Western perspective. She does travel more widely across the country than Raza can do and imparts an overview that helped with my understanding of the politics. She is also an interesting character in her own right so I revised my preconceptions there too!



I liked the ways in which Raza and Rachael's stories do become entangled. Omer's is deft yet with a nice delicacy that means he never hammers home his ideas or feels as though he is trying to hard to educate his readers. Instead I appreciated feeling as though I had space to make up my own mind. I am sure that some Western readers will look away from Entangled Lives because it doesn't neatly fit with the lines we are fed about good and evil, culpability and guilt. While we see the actions Raza has taken in his life and his own sense of shame, can we actually say he had free choice? If our rich nations have historically engineered so much of the destruction and despair 'over there', should we not also shoulder at least some of the responsibility for the current chaos and violence? There are absolutely no easy answers, but Entangled Lives is a powerful opening question especially for someone like me who wants to expand my knowledge of what is happening in countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan. A thought provoking novel and a brilliantly uncomfortable read.
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Title:  Entangled Lives 
Author:  Imran Omer 
Publish Date:  7/27/18
Publisher:  Round fire Books –UK
Buy Link:  https://goo.gl/rZp7hi 

Book Review of Entangled Lives 

Book Blurb: “But you have to promise me one thing:  If you really get any money by writing about me then you will not spend it on me in any way.  I want you to use it to get my son out of that madrassah…” 

Review:
The war overseas in countries that follow Islam has been going on for centuries and will probably continue to go on. Prejudice, hatred, the right of faith, the right of might and right of free will- will always clash in such societies.  No one will truly understand what it is to be Muslim unless they are Muslim and what they go through in their country because they are from that country.  I don’t agree with that entirely.  I feel that people need to know what happened and its root causes to understand how to tell the generation left behind what their families went through and also to educate ourselves.  This is why I truly liked this story.  For me, it was a quick read. It was also written in a way that made me want to finish the book.  This story follows a reporter, Laura, and her subject.  Mostly it is about her subject who is named Raza.  This is his and her story. 
Raza was an orphan after the death of his mother but being taken care of the woman who had housed both him and his mother prior to her death.  Despite not being his family she did take care of him and gave him an education- that is until Maulana Fazal came to speak with her. His purpose was two-fold: first to take him to the school and teach him the ways of war and the Quran.  Second, was to also take him to his bed.  Apparently, his way of making money was to teach the orphans and children no one wanted how to fight and why they were fighting. To instill in them a hatred for those who didn’t follow the faith and didn’t believe in their country. 
He, however, fell in love with Perveen. They would secretly talk with each other until they got caught.  Despite being caught they managed to maintain their romantic connection and then Raza heard she was going to be married.  So they ran away together and got married. They lived together at first in a place that gave them free room and board as well as meals.  Then eventually, they got a place of their own until the madrassah they had escaped from found them.  His wife, Perveen was taken back to the madrassah to sit in prison and he got away. But not before he found out who did it and why.  He then went to kill the man. Following that his life took a turn as most do for the worst.  He became a soldier, a criminal- fighting mostly for his life.  I won’t go into details for that you will have to read the book, but by the end of the book, he manages to save some woman from possibly being murdered including another woman, the reporter who is writing this book.  Remember the book blurb-well she kept her promise. But to really understand you have to read the whole book...
Reaction: 
I really liked this novel. It was a nice story that told a history of a person, as well as paid tribute to what he asked.  He simply asked she remove his son from the place that he was raised out after Massi Museabate sent him to the madrassah. And she kept her word.  In a place where he was kept, Guantanamo Bay, he must have felt very alone and that he had no family. He was raised to not like the infidel or Americans because they were not of the faith and did not deserve consideration. It was their fault that their country was at war.  However, in his case, it seemed he didn’t really kill those many people.  I counted maybe two handfuls for him throughout the entire novel.  And only to defend himself, or a woman.  Nothing out of sheer hatred or because they were on the battlefield. Yes, he may have experimented with heroin, but in some lives who hasn’t to help them survive?  
It was an interesting read because despite his feeling that she was entirely in it for herself- he trusted her to get his son. I don’t believe he met his son after he was brought to the US and he was probably right if he was ill he would be dead before he saw his son- but got him out she did.  Not Perveen but his son.  
It is sad for me to see the war or read about what is going on overseas.  So many lives lost. I even talked with a few who were right new the shelling and bombs in some of the war-torn countries. It makes you feel lucky that it hasn’t happened on American soil yet. But it did once or twice-think: French-American War, the Civil War-those are the two major wars I can think of.  The War for Independence is another.  Who is to say that it will not happen again on American soil and what we read about overseas will now be in our own backyard?  
I think the author should be read and commended for writing this novel. I think he told a side to the story that none of us will ever actually get to know.
Highly recommend this read. 

Disclosure: I read this review for Reader Spoils and I didn’t receive any compensation for this review except for a proof copy of the book to read.
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Thank you @netgalley and Roundfire Books for the advanced reading copy! Releases tomorrow! Review Below.
Entangled Lives has been the most diverse and unique reads of this year for me. Overall, I’m glad I read this book because it gave me a perspective of a world I otherwise might not have learned much about.
Raza is an orphan in Pakistan who is raised in a madrassah, a poor Muslim school that raises children with strict religious standards, but traps them in a world of perversion and abuse.
Once Raza enters adulthood and falls in love with a young girl in his village, they elope and try to escape their fates, only to later have his pregnant lover be imprisoned for the remainder of her life and he is sent to spend his days as a Taliban soldier in Afghanistan.
Rachael is an American journalist who travels to Afghanistan to personally witness how the war and religious and political conflicts are affecting its people, and more specifically, the women.
Rachael, while eager to be at the top of her journalist career, doesn’t realize the difficult road paved not only for the people she meets, but also herself.
This was a truly unique read and  a great idea for a book. The reader learns a little bit more about the lives, albeit still fictional, of the culture of the people in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the timeline right before 9/11. I applaud the author for taking up a highly controversial subject and writing a great work of fiction.
My only gripe with this was the story was a little difficult to follow along. I think if each chapter had more detail at the beginning, just whose perspective it was, it would make for easier reading transitions for the reader. It sometimes took me a couple pages to figure out whose perspective the narration was coming from.
The story line came off simple, but covered many complex issues and cultures. It was an easy read, but still gave me a lot to think about.
The author was in no way rationalizing the horrible events that have taken place as a result of the Taliban, but offers the perspective of how everyone is affected and exposes the beauty to be found in hardship.
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4 most harrowing stars 

Frightening, although a work of fiction, this story about a young boy trained to be an ISIS fighter, was not only well written but mesmerizing. The things related in this book, are true, scarily true, and one could see that in many cases there was no choice for these young boys than to either die, watch their family die, or join ISIS. Coincidentally, I am reading The Terrorist Factory: ISIS, the Yazidi Genocide, and Exporting Terror, which affirms all of what Mr Omer has written.

In this shocking and heart breaking tale, we meet Raza, a young boy, an orphan, living in the slums of Pakistan. He is sent to a madrassah where he is beaten, raped, and treated miserably. The only hope in his young life is Perveen, a young girl who Raza falls in love with. The two plot an escape and they are successful for a time. Perveen becomes pregnant and soon their life together ends as Perveen is sent back to her family and Raza is sent to ISIS where he and others are trained to kill in the name of Allah. The boys are again mistreated, beaten, and even drugged to follow the line that ISIS is pursuing. They are subjected to such brutality that it becomes part and parcel of their existence.

Rachel Brown is an American journalist sent to Afghanistan to cover the turmoil. She meets Raza and through him begins to understand what these boys have endured as they were trained to kill wantonly. She herself struggles with her need to record and be in the midst of this conflagration leaving her husband for months at a time to pursue this story. Her life is entangled with her need to find and cover the truth.

As time goes on, Raza and Rachel meet once again and the choices they have made come to fruition. War, as someone once said, is hell and Raza is living every moment in that hell. His entangled life, along with all those others whom ISIS has kidnapped over the years, and turned into killers is tragic and appalling. It certainly gave this reader much to consider and ponder. 

Thank you to Iman Omer, John Hunt Publishing LTD, and NetGalley for a copy of this, a most harrowing story of destruction and death.
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As an immigration lawyer I have seen many cases of Afghani refugees. However this novel still made a huge impression on me. We here in Holland live nowadays a safe life and you can hardly imagine what it will be when that safety is snatched away from you or when you are never safe.. This is happening over and over again in this book.

The novel tells the story of three different people and their lives are entangled with each other. Hence the title. We meet at first a young mother who recognises on tv a familiar face. She goes to Guantanamo Bay and it turns our that that inmate is the man who once saved her life. She asks him to tell him how he ended up in the Taliban and reluctantly he agrees to do so but she has to promise to save his son from life in a Madrassah. (religious boarding school).

So he starts to tell her about his life as an orphan in Karachi in Pakistan.

In the meantime we also hear about Tara a wealthy young woman whose parents live in what now is Bangladesh but then in 1971 was East Pakistan. She is a student who falls in love with a local Bengali student but her family is from West Pakistan. I used to have a friend who was born there in that year and who was adopted by Dutch parents and who could not understand why she looked so different from the people of the town she was supposed to come from until we saw a documentary of that war and realised. Reading Tara's story made me think of that girl all the time. Tara's parents are a very unhappy married couple who came together during the Partition between Pakistan and India. This influences Tara to make what in my eyes is a stupid decision and what is the only part in the book I had trouble believing. 

While Raza is telling about his days in Afghanistan with the Taliban his story is chronologically interspaced with that of the American journalist so we see what happened from both sides.

The writer hails from Pakistan and now lives in the United States.

A very good novel that is no propaganda document. It is scary and very depressing. Definitely not a happy read. Although there is a happy result of goodness to look forward to.. Not a novel you will easily forget.

I got this novel for free via Netgalley a site that gives people who like to review new books an advanced copy to read.

I can really recommend it. The novel will be published on the 27Th of July 2018. A 5 out of 5 stars.
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Imran Omer’s Entangled Lives is not an easy book to read. It shouldn’t be an easy book to read. It is, after all, the story of how young men in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s saw perpetual war as a given and had little choice but to fight. It is, after all, the story of a war between the USSR and Afghanistan that led to the rise of the Taliban that harbored Osama bin Laden.

And it is part memoir, because Imran Omer grew up in Pakistan during the times he writes about in this novel.

Right away, it becomes clear that Raza, the main character in the story, is representative of the many thousands of poor young boys and men who were orphaned, who were starving, and who had nothing to look forward to when the radical teachers began setting up madrassahs to teach the Quran and ready men for the holy jihad. The schools meant food and shelter and safety, relatively speaking. For too many, it has obviously been the only choice.

One of the strongest parts of the novel is when Raza reads his mother’s diary and learns about the turmoil that rocked Pakistan and the surrounding areas in the 1970s, leaving her pregnant and separated from all family.

Perpetual war.

There is a weaker part to the story, and it has to do with the trope of white saviorism. 

Rachel Brown is an American reporter who covers war. Her Indian husband is not happy about prolonged absences but she isn’t particularly happy in her marriage. So it’s fairly clear she escapes to Afghanistan just as the Taliban begins it’s push for total power in 1996. By chance, she interviews Raza at a stadium. By chance, he spares her life later. And by chance, after 9/11 she sees a photograph of him on television, after he’s been arrested as a terrorist and, I think, taken to Guantanamo Bay.
So she decides that should be the greatest story she tells.

The novel is meant to be Raza telling his life story to Rachel, in exchange for her getting his small son out of the same madrassah that put him on the path to terror. Rachel isn’t essential to the story, not really even as a vehicle by which Raza can tell the story. It’s possible to go for long stretches without thinking about her at all.

Raza, as representative that all men who do one thing might not be evil… evil enough to be painted with the same brush as everyone else around them, is what’s important to the story. It’s his story that makes this novel so good and so important.

(I received a copy of Entangled Lives from NetGalley and Roundfire Books in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.)
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A gripping fictional story that could easily be a real account of what happens to survivors of the onslaught of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Told by a reporter who goes to Afghanistan to interview a Taliban soldier captured by American forces, the soldier relays the story of his life while being left behind by his mother, growing up in a madrasa, and losing his child and the woman he loved. 

An emotional and at times, heartbreaking read that will keep you thinking.
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I was drawn to this book because I know that I am sadly lacking in knowledge about the rise to power of the Taliban; conflicts in Pakistan and Afghanistan; and the reality of what this means to the various sections of society in these regions.  I was not disappointed; shocked, angered, yes, but disappointed?  No.  Imran Omer has, with his beautifully written book, has filled in some of the gaps.

There are several strands to the plot.  The orphan Pakistani boy, Raza, was placed in a Madrasa to be cared for and educated; in reality he (like the others) was in fact indoctrinated, sexually abused.  Raza fell in love with Parveen, a girl in the Madrasa and they ran away together.  Later both were captured; Raza returned to the mullah to be sold to the Taliban to boost their army, whilst she was taken away, held captive, raped and trapped.  Raza later learned that she was pregnant.

Raza as a soldier for the Taliban in Afghanistan meets Rachel an American investigative journalist and the plot unfolds from their perspective and from Parveen’s mother’s perspective.  This is sometimes confusing.

At times the language is quite lyrical which tends to make the atrocities we witness more shocking.  The suffering and indignities that these poor people endure; the hopelessness; the sheer lack of dignity, consideration – they are all dispensable and disposable.  Murder on a grand scale.

I am glad I read this book.  I did learn more about the different cultures but I am afraid that I still lack any comprehension.  I am left saddened and  bewildered.

Thank you to the author, publishers and NetGalley for providing an ARC via my Kindle in return for an honest review.
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I started the book, but unfortunately it just did not grab my attention in the first four chapters, so did not finish.
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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.

Highly recommended.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy!
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Wow! Just WOW!! 

If you wanted to read a book that will make you think this is it. Raza is an orphan who grows up in a Madrassa, a radical religious school. He falls in love with Parveen and they decide to run away together. They do experience love with each other but have to live a life where they are permanently looking over their shoulder. Eventually they are caught and Raza is sent to the Taliban. They train him to fight the holy war in Afghanistan. The author has done a fabulous job of making Raza' s feelings of desperation in the Madrassah and the emotion of falling in love very real. There is a depth to the characters. The author has described the conflicts of that region very well. He also describes the helplessness of the men called to war and you really hear the resignation in their voices. It's hard to grasp that this book is a work of fiction, it could easily read as a real life account of someone in the Taliban. Emotional and heart breaking in equal measures.
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*An ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review.*

An interesting story that gives a human face of someone who was fighting with the Taliban...however, in my copy the formatting was a mess and the story jumped back and forth between Reza's, Tara's and Rachael's stories so abruptly that it was hard to follow.
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Behind the inflammatory headlines lies a tragic reality

The newspaper headlines only present one side of a complex story when it comes to reporting about the Taliban. The reality is heartbreaking and the author uses his narrative to explain how poor young men are cannon fodder for the war machine that feeds the extremism of the Taliban.

Young boys that are orphaned or from poor families are given to the Madrasa, supposedly to be educated but the reality is that they are indoctrinated, often suffer horrific sexual abuse at the hands of the very men that are supposed to protect them and are then sent to fight for a cause that has no meaning to them. Money is exchanged in return for this steady supply of young men by the wealthy countries supporting the Taliban such as Saudi Arabia. The reality is that these young men are no more than pawns in a dirty game of war and power.

This wonderful book puts into perspective exactly who the enemy is, and it is not the young man or woman forced into situations over which they have no control. The so-called enemy wearing the suicide belt or driving the truck into the crowd or planting the bomb is just another casualty of war.

If only the reporters took the time to look behind the scenes and in doing so would report a very different story. The majority of news agencies seem more concerned with headlines than reporting the other side of the story.

If the public was given the real story, that these young people are targeted as vulnerable youngsters and given no choice but to carry out the instructions of those that control them, there might be more understanding and empathy.

Raza is the ‘face of the enemy’, a poor Pakistani boy whose life is blighted by tragedy. The local Mullah offers to take him in and educate him after he is left an orphan but this turn of events leads him to be sold to the Taliban as a soldier. Even after running away with a young girl he meets in the Madrasa he cannot escape the fate that powerful men have decided for him. The young woman is also another pawn in the game that these powerful men play and she has been promised to a much older man as his third wife and she too has no control over her destiny either.

Raza is ultimately captured and imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay and this is where he meets the American journalist from his past. This past encounter serves to highlight that humanity can triumph in the worst of circumstances.

It is a tragic story and the reader is compelled to examine the reality that faces so many young, destitute people the world over. The author makes it clear this is one aspect of a very complex situation but it is certainly food for thought.

Gillian

Breakaway Reviewers received a copy of this book to review
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a gem of a story--emotionally resonant while being culturally impactful. the novel isn't some forgettable social artifact but an exceptional literary work
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Thought provoking and sad, everyone should read this to understand some of the many facets that make up human conflict. Imran Omer gives us a vivid picture of a Raza, poor Pakistani orphan brought up in a corrupt madrassah. He tries to escape, but never really has a chance of a normal life and is eventually forced to fight for the Taliban. The novel starts with his meeting with Rachel an American journalist who persuades him to tell her his story, so we see the conflict in Afghanistan from both perspectives. The characterisation and the narration are so clear, I had to check to see if it was a true story.
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This novel should be required reading for all westerners. 

Imran Omer puts a very human face on 'the Enemy' by showing us the way young boys are indoctrinated and abused then sold to the Taliban as fresh young 'soldiers' for their cause, never really knowing what they are doing, or why they are doing it.  

Raza, a very believable character, is raised and isolated in a Pakistani madrassah run by a fanatical and abusive Mullah, then sold across the border into Afghanistan as a Talib. 

The writer states in more than one place in the novel that not all madrassahs are like this and we learn something about the history/culture/poverty of the area and that there are many different cultural groups there with good and bad/extremists among them as with every other country, religion and group of people. 

Raza's whole life is a tragedy, from conception to imminent demise, and whatever he does in order to survive, the reader cannot help but understand and feel for the way he is treated/used and his lack of freedom to choose his own path. 

Even the final points, where his innate empathy and morality win through, where he and an American journalist become the 'Entangled Lives' of the title, ultimately lead to his incarceration, torture and expected death in Guantanamo Bay detention centre......yet because of this entanglement we see an exchange of mercy, kindness and empathy which gives us hope for the human race in general. 

Highly recommended reading, written simply but well, in a way that would be accessible to all who were willing to open their hearts and minds to the fact that a person is not necessarily 'bad because they fight for someone or something which one is against. The novel most certainly makes you think - about all soldiers and all war.
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