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Friday, April 6, 2018

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Entangled Lives

Imran Omer
Roundfire Books
ISBN: 978-1785357848
Release Date: July 27, 2018

Jane Smiley (author of Private Life and Some Luck) said that “in our dangerous world, the freedom and empathy that fiction develops in its remains essential.” She was defining how fiction has the power to show us not only human truth, but to make us feel the power of that truth. And she goes on to explain that “reading fiction is and always was about learning to see the world through often quite alien perspectives.” And that brings us to Omer’s Entangled Lives. A novel that shows the interconnections between a journalist, a Taliban fighter in Afghanistan, and the lives that are tangled between these two main protagonists.

In the slums of Pakistan, Rasa is a poor orphan who grows up in a strict and confining madrassah. There he meets and falls in love with Perveen. In their desperation for change and a life together, they decide to flee the madrassah and the city. When their dreams of escape fail, a pregnant Perveen is sent home while Raza is sent to Afghanistan to fight as a Taliban solider.  Just before he leaves to fight across the border, he learns who his mother is, and why she had to give him up. Knowing his past, he has to survive his life in Afghanistan and return to Perveen and his child.

On the other side of the world, a journalist named Rachael Brown travels to Afghanistan to to report on the political unrest and the coming civil war. She meets Raza for a brief interview and realizes that the Taliban has filled its ranks with poor, desperate young men with no future. Through the unfolding war, these two unlikely strangers meet in an epic meeting of fate. The result is how two people from the most unlikely places can change the course of life. In a time of labels, stereotypes, and socio-politic polarization, this novel brings to focus the complexity and dynamics watching your life change in the currents of political and social change.

Novels are meant to connect more than just a telling of events, they are designed to immerse the reader into something more, to draw out empathy, character, and truth in terms of universal qualities. Jane Smiley explains it as the “reading fiction is and always was a practice in empathy” which cuts down those stereotypes, that changes are vision of the world, and shows us the universal struggles that is so easy to cast off, turn into a sound byte, or shape into political divisions. Entangled Lives is a connective novel that shifts views and shows the intersection of two worlds in face of the darkest moments in our lives. Set in the Middle East and focused about two unlikely people in the face of great odds, this novel compares to The Kite Runner and Girls of Riyadh.