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Book Review: Under the Almond Tree by Laura McVeigh

Under the Almond Tree by Laura McVeigh is a terrific story staged against the recent war situations and the refugee crisis in Afghanistan.

Be it any kind of war, wherever it happens. It causes havoc on innocent people. Amidst such one war it is the story of a family that runs away from their native country in search of freedom and safety. Under the Almond Tree is a treat for readers seeking fresh and substantial stories from the war-ravaged zones. It is painful to see how once a beautiful country descends into nothingness of war and becomes void.

In the unnecessary misery of war, their world turns upside down, with many things and joys of lives losing for no apparent reason. Fifteen-year-old teenage girl Samar from Afghanistan is travelling on a Trans-Siberian express, they are going to Moscow in search of freedom and safety. There are two streams of narrative – one is in the train and second from the past life of Samar in Afghanistan. Samar has prodigious memory that’s the reason she was able to survive the shocks and depressions of the war. Well, because of her imagination readers are often thrown into a state of confusion. She thinks that her mother is having an affair but this is based on her perceptions from Tolstoy's story Anna Karenina.

As the story shuttles back and forward, Samar’s story goes back to Afghanistan where she had a yellow house and an almond tree underneath it she used to play. Along with her, other characters like her parents, grandparents, brothers and the vile Talibani commander also rev up life and intensity around the readers. Other than the unfolding of the war events first by Soviet encroachment in Afghanistan and then the misrule of Taliban, the story also to some extent covers the issue of cultural appropriation.

It is a war fiction but the narrative has been delivered in a soft voice. Despite all, it is a terrific novel that takes firm stance on the issues of war and refugee crises. It is a poignant story of a teenage girl whose world goes totally against her imagination just because of the war events, as a teenage she sees the worst face of the humanity in her country. Profoundly well-written and well executed!


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