Tag Archives: Somalia

** A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout

The author of A House in the Sky, a freelance journalist on a tiny budget, was kidnapped while in Somalia, beaten, raped, starved, taken to a couple of mock executions, held for over a year but eventually released after her family and that of a fellow journalist paid a ransom to the terrorist group that had taken them. The story is tough, even if we know, unlike the author at the time, that she will make it out of the series of increasingly bleak hiding places where she and her friend are shuffled to avoid the civil war.

What made the book interesting for me were two things. First, the back story of the author, raised under very modest conditions in a small town in Alberta, Canada, but who dreamed of adventure from a young age. And second, the resiliency she shows during her captivity, as she seeks to establish human ties with her captors, combs through the Koran for sayings that she can use to gain privileges, gratefully recognizes every shred of assistance she was given during her ordeal, often by other women, and finds every opportunity to manufacture hope for herself and her fellow captive.

On the other hand, her blithe disregard of danger seems quite foolish — and although it’s wonderful that she made it back, the ransoms paid by families (and governments) seems to all but ensure that every Westerner is seen as a walking ATM…

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*** The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed

Don’t be fooled by the romantic-looking blossom on the cover. There is indeed an orchard in The Orchard of Lost Souls but the emphasis is on the people around the orchard, more specifically on three women thrown together in a random event and who eventually come together in a rather unlikely way, but with civil war swirling around them the unlikely ending seems entirely natural.

There is much violence and little hope in the recounting of the Somalian revolution but the characters are complex, shown with all their weaknesses and even evil, and I found that the remote, detached, almost journalistic way the war is described made me focus even more on the people and their complicated decisions. Very well done.



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