By the Book @ Rogers Memorial Library

A Fort of Nine Towers: An Afghan Family Story

“Kabul was like a huge garden then.  Trees lined the wide streets and touched each other overhead in tall, leafy arches.  The city was full of well-tended parks, in which tall pink hollyhocks competed for attention with bright orange marigolds and hundreds of shades of roses.”

The Fort of Nine Towers: an Afghan Family Story challenges stereotypes and enlightens us about the many endearing characteristics of the Afghan people.  We also learn of the heartbreaking suffering they have endured during thirty years of civil war.  This work of nonfiction is spiced with storytelling and poetic language

Qais (rhymes with rice) Akbar Omar, the author, starts his story when he was a boy of ten.  He lived at his grandfather’s house with brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and twenty-five cousins.  Sometimes there were more than fifty for dinner, all sitting on cushions spread around a cloth on the well-trimmed lawn of grandfather’s courtyard.

Grandfather had taught himself to read and write.  He worked up to a prestigious government position as an accountant, and then walked away from that position when he uncovered corruption but was ignored by his supervisor.  To earn money he began trading rugs.  Travelling to remote villages, he brought his son with him to teach him the trade and relive with him the old, nomadic life. Over the years he bought and sold thousands of rugs.

Grandfather always had a book in his hand, and the boys were encouraged to read and discuss Greek philosophy, Russian and English novels and Sufi poetry.  In the late 1960’s, Grandfather bought 5 acres in Kabul, and then spent ten years building a home and gardens for his family.  His roses and McIntosh apple trees were his pride and joy.  Grandfather and Qais had a special relationship.

Qais’ father was a physics instructor.  He was also a champion international boxer and had two gyms where he trained others.  During the war he struggled to support his family and smuggle them out of the country.

Wakeel was an older cousin; Qais’ favorite cousin and his best friend.  He was the kite master — and challenged and taught the other children as they fly kites from the roof.  Competition is strong and relished.

This memoir is the story of a family’s journey to protect themselves.  They crisscrossed the mountains, hiding in an old fort, or in a cave behind an enormous Buddha statue, but the fighting always followed them.  They persisted.  They endured.  Qais manages to tell this tale with tenderness and humor.

Readers who enjoyed Hosseini’s The Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns would enjoy this book — and you might want to reserve Hosseini’s new book And the Mountains Echoed, coming out late May.

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