99 Nights in Logar, by Jamil Jan Kochai, 2019

Title: 99 Nights in Logar

Author: Jamil Jan Kochai

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Coming-of-age, bildungsroman

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 276

Synopsis:

A coming-of-age story about one boy’s journey across contemporary Afghanistan to find and bring home the family dog, blending the grit and immediacy of voice-driven fiction like We Need New Names with the mythmaking of One Thousand and One Nights.

Twelve-year-old Marwand’s memories from his previous visit to Afghanistan six years ago center on his contentious relationship with Budabash, the terrifying but beloved dog who guards his extended family’s compound in Logar. Eager to find an ally in this place that’s meant to be “home,” Marwand approaches Budabash the way he would any dog on his American suburban block—and the results are disastrous: Marwand loses a finger and Budabash escapes.

The resulting search for the family dog is an expertly told adventure, a ninety-nine-night quest that sends Marwand and his cousins across the landscape of Logar. Moving between celebrations and tragedies, deeply humorous and surprisingly tender, 99 Nights in Logar is a vibrant exploration of the power of stories—the ones we tell each other, and the ones we find ourselves in. 

My review:

I received an ARC for the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Trigger warning for violence and animal abuse.

Set in contemporary Afghanistan, 99 Nights in Logar is a splendid coming-of-age novel which encapsulates elements of childhood innocence, curiosity and adventures worth remembering even after finishing the book.

Having grown in a well-connected and extremely large family myself, I love reading about Marwand and his relationship with his many cousins, the love and also the many fights they shared. In many ways, this book may prove to be a nostalgic read for many of the readers.

The narrative is written in this unique voice which had a very conversational style, and that is also seen in the story itself. The plot itself is very interesting to behold. What I loved is the literary device – the text within the text – the inclusion of the various stories within the story lends a certain originality to the voice. Moreover, the author has also included some very local words, as well as words which are essential to the Islam religion as a whole and that also gives another layer to this deep read. Inclusion of these various diverse elements makes this book a beautiful experience, authentic and real in its being.

The plot is also well made. The use of the flashback methods, and thus moving back and forth in time is crucial in providing both mystery and thus curiosity, and also, the moments of realization as we come to know various events.

While some may categorize it as a middle-grade book, I find that apart from that tone, it also has many different layers of meaning that will be clear to the reader in accordance to their understanding (and not necessarily just age).

The characters were all very well portrayed and really reflect characteristics we find in one or the other cousin in our own families. The familial bond is an important character in itself and we see it entwining all the different characters in the book. The author also delves into the political side of things but I shall not dwell on that. He has done well in trying to show a different point of view of things.

Verdict:

It was an enjoyable read and felt like a real adventure I might have been going on with my cousisn, in fact. I rate it a 4/5 stars and commend the writer’s style. For a debut, this sure is a wonderful piee of work. I look forward to more of his works in the future.

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

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