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Friday, October 3, 2014

Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed

This book, which is set in Sudan during the 1986-1987 time period when the country was on the brink of civil war, is aptly named.  There are three main characters, all women, who have separate narratives that come together at the end of the book. 

The first is Kawsar, an elderly woman who cannot stand watching the police indiscriminately beat children in the street.  She speaks up and is herself beaten for her efforts.  Her time in police custody is marked with vicious beatings that leave her body broken and she is not longer able to ambulate.  She lies in her home, at the mercy of anyone who comes in her door.  Her only salvation is that she has nothing to take, and when her home is invaded it is not even clear to her that the men even notice her existence.  The child that escapes as the result of Kawsar's intervention is Dequ, an orphan who is from a refugee camp and cared for by prostitute.  Dequ sees that Kawsar has suffered for her in a way that no one in her life has, and they form a bond.  The third woman is Filsan, one of the few women in the military.  She is a hard hearted woman who is one of the few souls that war softens rather than hardens.  In the end the three of them form a family group of sorts to escape the escalating violence in Sudan.

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