"Hank Garvey is a Viet Nam vet assigned to Harmez to report on any signs of progress following the American invasion. What Hank finds, though, is poverty, rampant cynicism, and the brutal rule of the warlord Akbar Khan. Meanwhile, he develops a deep romantic attachment to a Danish nurse named Illse Lillestrom, who embodies the mysteriousness and disaffectedness of Harmez itself. The plot is not the prime mover here. Instead, Hank's character keeps the reader drawn in: a former soldier and cop, he's not quite a hero; the inclination to heroism is but one ingredient in the complex brew that is his personality. Also, the setting, painted by the author in cinematographic detail, functions like a second main character, with ambiance captured in brooding tones. The writing is always sharp and, when the subject turns to love, even poetic: "Fully invested in the moment now, blind to doubts and consequences, his arms closed around her in a victory of lust over judgment." In addition to touching on the treatment of women's rights, the book as a whole is a kind of cautionary tale about the fragility of freedom as an export. It's a rewarding read for those interested in an insider's account of Afghanistan, revealed in all its unvarnished grimness.
A timely and thoughtful account of a lost American trying to find himself in a lost country.