The Blind Man’s Garden (Nadeem Aslam)

I’m always interested to figure out how a book’s title will manifest itself in the story. Is it simply based on one of the characters or a phrase someone utters? (Like Harry Potter or The Color Purple) Or is the meaning more hidden, something the readers have to tease out for themselves? Without giving away spoilers, this book is sort of a combination of the two.

Title – The Blind Man’s Garden

Author – Nadeem Aslam

Page count – 367

Goodreads rating – 3/5 (liked it)

On its surface, this book is about the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks and the effects they had in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It’s a fictional story (as far as specific characters and events go), but the struggles, turmoil, and loss are very real. The story doesn’t focus on one “main character” so at times it was hard to keep track of where we were. And it wasn’t always clear if something was happening for real or in a dream/someone’s imagination.

So if you’re looking for a book with all its loose ends neatly tied up, perhaps you should choose something else to read. Or be open to a different idea of what makes for a satisfying story/ending.

This story is a beautiful and timely reminder that each person we encounter is not a caricature or stereotype, but a human being, just like us. And it does so without being preachy…It just is. Some people do many good things with their lives. Some do many bad things. Most do both good and bad. It’s not so easy or simple to put people into categories of Good Person or Bad Person. Christian or Muslim. Brown or White. Military or Civilian. Religious or Non-Religious. Pakistani or Afghan or American.

Who is your Ally and who is your Enemy isn’t as cut and dry as we like to believe.

Again, without revealing too much, here is a short passage of a character exploring the garden. The author shifts the narration from longer exchanges of conversation, to more intense descriptions of combat, to vivid descriptions of the environment, like this one:

“She doesn’t reply. A movement in the grape arbour where the very first green beads have appeared on the branches; by June they will have grown and the skin will slip liquidly from the pulp…She looks up where the tamarind tree shifts its branches, in its stately thirst for movement. The dying leaves that had covered it in a copper haze last month are gone, replaced by a luminous green.” (p. 181)

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