A gripping, inspiring, and eye-opening memoir of fortitude and survival - of a 12-year-old boy's traumatic flight from Afghanistan to the West - that puts a face to one of the most shocking and devastating humanitarian crises of our time.
"To risk my life had to mean something. Otherwise what was it all for?"
In 2006, after his father was killed, Gulwali Passarlay was caught between the Taliban, who wanted to recruit him, and the Americans, who wanted to use him. To protect her son, Gulwali's mother sent him away. The search for safety would lead the 12-year-old across eight countries, from the mountains of Eastern Afghanistan through Iran and Europe to Britain. Over the course of 12 harrowing months, Gulwali endured imprisonment, hunger, cruelty, brutality, loneliness, and terror - and nearly drowned crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Eventually granted asylum in England, Gulwali was sent to a good school, learned English, won a place at a top university, and was chosen to help carry the Olympic torch in the 2012 London Games.
In The Lightless Sky, Gulwali recalls his remarkable experience and offers a firsthand look at one of the most pressing issues of our time: the modern refugee crisis - the worst displacement of millions of men, women, and children in generations. Few, like Gulwali, make it to a country that offers the chance of freedom and opportunity. A celebration of courage and determination, The Lightless Sky is a poignant account of an exceptional human being who is today an ardent advocate of democracy - and a reminder of our responsibilities to those caught in terrifying and often deadly circumstances beyond their control.
©2016 Gulwali Passarlay (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers
"Narrator Assaf Cohen so perfectly captures the voice of an expressive kid that it's hard to remember he isn't the author of this enthralling memoir.... Cohen nails both the nasty and nice characters - everyone from Kurd to Englishman - and brings moving expression to Gulwali's growing confidence amid enough terrors for a lifetime." (AudioFile)
Gulwali's story is unique because it's being told, because he survived both on his smarts and some luck and help along the way... and yet it's the story of other children fleeing areas of intense poverty and corruption and conflict. This book is written in an accessible style, and yet some of the writing is unpolished and choppy. Some things are repeated frequently, while many "characters" appear and disappear and then get a mention as though the reader remembers who they are.
I like how Gulwali neither glossed over his preferential treatment in spots nor provided extra shock value. He is both grateful to the UK for taking him in and painfully aware of some of the culture that doesn't fit who he is and what he believes. He's neither a tragic victim nor a blameless hero; he speaks about his nightmares and battles with depression openly and honestly.
The fact that this book was written nearly a decade after its events take place provides both a needed remove for the author's introspection and yet a stark reminder that things are not so different today (see "Nujeen" for a more contemporary read about a child refugee).
It's well worth your time, money and credit.
It is hard for me to put into words how much this narrative impacted me. From an understanding of the difference between Islam and Pashtunawli to the trials of the plight of refugees from war torn nations, I feel like I have gained a much deeper understanding through the retelling of Gulwali's journey. Highly recommend this book to everyone. I would love to be able to visit with this author and talk to him about his experiences, and the future he envisions for himself. The most amazing part is that he is only a few years older than my own children.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.