The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad
Published by Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin
In the tribal area between Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, marital fidelity is highly prized, especially in women. When a man and a woman show up at a remote outpost clearly on the run from an angry father or husband they are granted permission to live there for a time, but also told they will be given no protection if a time comes when such protection would be necessary. It is their son who will become Tor Baz, the eponymous “Wandering Falcon.” Tor Baz’s wanderings through this foreboding borderland become the basis for exploring a number of stories of those in the tribal lands.
The Wandering Falcon is a unique book, it would perhaps best be described as a book of linked stories, but unlike other books of linked stories, such as A Visit From the Goon Squad, there is a single character in The Wandering Falcon whose life and exploits tie together the disparate stories in what seems to be chronological order. In this case the form works extremely well by giving a flavor of the variety of experiences in these tribal lands while still having a single unifying thread to keep the reader engaged. Interestingly, Tor Baz’s importance varies from story to story; at times he is so minor that he could almost be missed, at others he is an integral part of the story being told.
Ahmad is uniquely qualified to write a book like The Wandering Falcon. He has worked for many years for the government of Pakistan, mostly in areas of frontier management. The language of The Wandering Falcon is beautiful, particularly for the heart and humanity so evident in the stories being told. Highly recommended.
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