A few weeks ago, in a debate with the author Stephen King, Michael Grunwald pointed out that Khalid Khan (Malik) was not a character whom a young boy might like to follow. Though perhaps he was just a Muslim teenager from Brooklyn who was killed in a freak accident and felt the sudden urge to wander off to Afghanistan. He was, after all, the hero of the story who by his own skill, courage and persistence, ended up saving the world from evil.
But Malik’s book does offer something to a young reader; in fact, it does something more. It engages and captures our sense of adventure, of courage and of striving for happiness. It is a good example of the kind of book that provides the perfect mixture of inspirational reading and a chance to feel inspired by some kind of human emotion, a sense of adventure and triumph.
The story of the book begins when Malik receives a glowing letter from his dead grandfather telling him about the greatness of his country. Malik starts getting letters in his mailbox from Kashmir, writing to say that there is a civil war between his country and Pakistan. Malik has always lived in Brooklyn, but now he is being asked to go into battle, perhaps to get the help of his family. He is dismayed at the thought of this, and begins to think about what to do.
In the end, Malik realizes that his only way out is to go to the holy land to seek the friendship of the Man of the World. His adventure begins when he leaves Brooklyn, eventually moving to the Middle East. As the story unfolds, Malik finds a partner in an Indian woman called Maya (Himanshu Suri), who also leaves him and moves to Kashmir. Together they make it their mission to make it to India and find peace and shelter for themselves.
This book has a rather grand feel to it, but it is also in the spirit of non-fiction, of taking the reader on a journey, of seeing, hearing and feeling all around us, through the eyes of someone else. It is a quick read, and if you have had enough of Pakistani, Muslim or Middle Eastern subplots, then you will certainly enjoy it, although it is probably not a very good idea to read this book in its entirety at one go.
Memoirs by men are often less interesting than those written by women. That is one reason why my review here is not going to be as long as the others; I am just not much interested in reading a book about a woman leading an adventure that ends up in the middle of a war, I want to read a book about a man, an Afghan man, from Brooklyn, who lives in the city and decides to move to the holy land and take the challenge of this new country. It seems that the “adventure” in this book is turning out to be quite a lot more interesting than the conflict in Kashmir. I suspect this is because Malik and Maya are not Muslim.
With a little love and imagination, the book could become a great action movie, so I hope that one day, the two main characters from the book to get together in a blockbuster film. I don’t know how they are going to pull it off, but I can imagine that it will probably be quite a while before we see a sequel to this novel. They are now known as Arabs.
Perhaps, a film about the hero of this novel, the Man of the World, Malik Khan, one day. Indeed, if you have not yet read this book, I recommend it highly, you will not be disappointed, especially if you are the sort of person who loves a good story that grabs your attention and makes you think and wonder.