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The Punishment of Virtue

Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban
Narrated by: Renée Raudman
Length: 14 hrs and 58 mins
4 out of 5 stars (43 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

As a National Public Radio reporter covering the last stand of the Taliban in Afghanistan's southern borderland, Sarah Chayes became deeply immersed in the attempt to rebuild a broken nation. With her NPR assignment finished in early 2002, she left reporting to help turn around the country's fortunes, accepting a job running a nonprofit founded by President Hamid Karzai's brother.

With remarkable access to leading players in the postwar government, Chayes witnessed a tragic, perverse turn of events: the U.S. government and armed forces allowing and abetting the return to power of corrupt militia commanders to the country. In addition, the reinfiltration of Taliban forces was supported by a U.S. ally, Pakistan.

In this dramatic account of her four years on the ground, working with Afghanis to restore their country to order and establish democracy, Chayes opens Americans' eyes to the sobering realities of this vital front in the war on terror.

©2006 Sarah Chayes (P)2006 Tantor Media

Critic Reviews

"Absorbing...necessary, even" (Kirkus)
"[Chayes'] hands-on experience as a deeply immersed reporter and activist gives her [book] a practical scope and persuasive authority." (Publishers Weekly)

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Joshua
  • Lexington, VA, USA
  • 01-15-08

Pronunciation errors abound!

This is an interesting book, but the narrator commits a range of terrible pronunciation errors that make me wonder who the lazy sloths are who produce these things. Saying "calvary" for "cavalry" (which makes military forces sound like Christian zealots), pronouncing "NGO" not as three discrete letters but as a single Zulu-sounding acronym, even pronouncing "similarly" as "similarily." And let's not get started on names. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the Mujahedeen leader, becomes Gulbyudin Hekmatire (roughly rhyming with Rasputin McIntyre). I don't know if this stuff bothers you, but it drives me crazy.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Terrible performance

Like Joshua, who has a review written in this section, I am horrified by the terrible reading that Renee Raudman gives this otherwise excellent book. Who is the sound editor or producer who allowed the massacre of Chayes' fine language to escape the studio? And who chose her to read when the voice of the book, as well as Chayes' actual voice, is intense, sharp, and always insistent? Raudman reads as though she is trying to calm a young child. That is certainly not the intent of the book!
I suggest that people buy a hardcopy of The Punishment of Virtue rather than endure its dreadful performance.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Needs someone who can read

I rarely give up on a book, but I just can't make it through this one. I wish I'd read the readers' reviews before getting the audible version. I know it's a good book, I love hearing Sarah Chayes on NPR, but OH MY GOODNESS what a horrible narration! She plods along expressionless, like it's painful for her to read. I'm amazed that the author would allow her words to be so warped and made boring. I'm very disappointed,as I did want to *listen* to this book, but I will have to read the book myself if I want it to have any of the meaning that the author intended.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

an odd hybrid

This really should have been two books, or maybe a book and an article. Much of the book is taken up with Central Asian history of the past 1500 years or so. It's interesting in its own right, but not really very enlightening concerning the main topic of the book, which is the situation in Afghanistan following the U.S. invasion and the fall of the Taliban. The latter is timely and interesting, but could be covered in something article-length. As a consequence of having the two mixed together, it's a difficult listen.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Out standing book written by an insider

A passionate insightful detailed story of Afghanistan in the early years after the US invasion. The author leads the reader through the personalities, events, sights and sounds, Heart ache, dreams, And hopes of the young nation as it tried to find its wayBack from nearly 30 years of brokenness after the Afghan Communist coup of 1978. Her writing is Articulate andPersonal.C gives the reader a gift. That gift is a glance of Afghanistan beneath the surface,A glimpse of the Courage of the few whoSeek to make Afghanistan a better place while Working Against the ugliness, the corruption, and graspingBrutality of others Who View Afghan instability as an opportunity for self service. I highly recommend this book. I hated to come to the end

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Jodi
  • Cambridge, MA, USA
  • 06-19-09

Important Story

Sarah Chayes never ceases to impress with the breadth of her understanding of her adopted country, Afghanistan. The Punishment of Virtue is dense with its descriptions of Afghan history and politics, but valuable as a guide to anyone interested in the region.