Top positive review
Incredible story of two men who went beyond being enemies
Reviewed in the United States on May 9, 2018
It's hard to describe this book without a spoiler. Let's just say that the book has an utterly amazing and unforgettable ending! Since this a true story, it will reinforce your belief that this world a fascinating and unbelievable place sometimes.
You'd think this book would be a big downer, just because of the topic. We hear alternating stories of (a) an Iraqi man in his late 20's who joins Saddam Hussein's army during the Iran/Iraq War; and (b) an Iranian child soldier on the opposite side of the same war. The child soldier saves the Iraqi's life, and then both end up in POW camps. It's a sickening, awful description of what these two men went through, sometimes in civilian life, sometimes in the military or in prison. But ...
It's worth going through all the grief of the main characters, because they are each honorable, in their own ways. They are far from saints. Yet there is a basic human dignity that endears them to the reader. We can understand why they made the decisions they did. We learn why a child would volunteer to be cannon fodder for Khomeini's army, and how Iraqis were conscripted against their will. We see how POWs on either side were held for up to ten years after the war ended. We watch people being tortured, and civilians being bombed. One of the main characters had to clean up after the genocide in Halabja, an especially gruesome section of the book.
One important thing is that we learn about the complexities of the Iran/Iraq War. It lasted eight years, and 700,000 people were killed. The introduction says that nearly 40 percent of the adult men in Iran and Iraq were involved. It accomplished absolutely nothing for either party; no change of borders, and no peace treaty. So one theme is the sheer waste and futility of war -- on nations, families and individuals.
Another theme, though, is the transcendence of human bonding. In the magic of a moment, two people can have a connection that defies understanding. They may be enemies in a war, or younger/older, or Shia/Sunni, or Arab/Persian. Yet something divine can occur that will change lives. This book describes one of those miraculous connections.