Literary Fiction

99 Nights in Logar – Jamil Jan Kochai

16 February 2019
99 Nights in Logar Book Cover 99 Nights in Logar
Jamil Jan Kochai
Bloomsbury Publishing
February 7, 2019

A coming-of-age story about one boy’s journey across contemporary Afghanistan to find and bring home the family dog, blending the grit and immediacy of voice-driven fiction like We Need New Names with the mythmaking of One Thousand and One Nights.

Twelve-year-old Marwand’s memories from his previous visit to Afghanistan six years ago center on his contentious relationship with Budabash, the terrifying but beloved dog who guards his extended family’s compound in Logar. Eager to find an ally in this place that’s meant to be “home,” Marwand approaches Budabash the way he would any dog on his American suburban block—and the results are disastrous: Marwand loses a finger and Budabash escapes.

The resulting search for the family dog is an expertly told adventure, a ninety-nine-night quest that sends Marwand and his cousins across the landscape of Logar. Moving between celebrations and tragedies, deeply humorous and surprisingly tender, 99 Nights in Logar is a vibrant exploration of the power of stories—the ones we tell each other, and the ones we find ourselves in.

99 Nights in Logar is a well-crafted novel where the main plot thread is entwined with multiple tales, incidents, interesting characters, enthralling history and a harsh location. There is a common sense of atmosphere from many books based in Afghanistan and it’s probably due to the wonderful writings that depict a culture always guarded against occupying forces and the imposing landscape of the country. The native occupants of the country have their own myths and culture that feed great storytelling.

Marwad is a 12-year-old boy who has just returned from the US after 6 years and has broadened his experiences yet there are life lessons still to be learnt. He is reintegrated into the wider family circle of aunts, uncles and cousins, and their life within the extended family’s compound. Marwad feels guilty of how he abused the guard dog Budabash and his last engagement with the dog left him losing the top of his finger and the dog escaped.

Marwad and his friends Gul, Dawood and Zia set off to find Budabash in an adventure that crosses paths with American soldiers and Taliban, and is regaled with interesting tales, often with a dark sense of humour. I find it exciting to read about regions I may never visit and get a glimpse into a new culture and lifestyle. I enjoyed many of the tales told here, however, after a while I became less interested and just wanted day 99 to arrive.

In a very strange and confusing way, the publishers tried desperately on a number of counts to damage the readers’ experience. Firstly there are the formatting issues which resulted in me giving up a few times and it took quite a while to finish this book. Secondly, the untranslated story of Watak is just dead text for me, and the use of unfamiliar terms were effectively blanks. I feel I should be rating this story much higher but I’m just worn down with the physical effort of reading this disjointed text.

I would like to thank Bloomsbury Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in return for an honest review. For future reference, it is counterproductive providing book texts in this state.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley

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