Author Omar Farhad’s novel, ‘Honor and Polygamy’ narrates the story of Nicholas Blake, a diplomatic officer working with the United Nations in New York City. Having just returned from an overseas tour for U.N, Nick is looking forward to a peaceful domestic life with his wife, Lisa and his two children, Ashley and Fargo when fate deals him the first of many wild cards. He is asked to report back to Afghanistan on a six month mission; landing there and even before he gets to officially feel homesick, fate arrives in his life once again in the form of lean & bearded Taliban men who kidnap him and imprison him in a village on the hills. Months go by quickly before Nick escapes from their clutches, albeit only partially, as he now finds that his only chance at redemption lies in the hands of the villagers. In a bizarre life and death situation, Nick is forced to take a second wife, to try and to survive and hopefully get back to his real family in America. But as fate would have it, Nick can’t help falling in love with his new bride, Shaista and thus begins the struggle to make sense of the world around him while trying to overcome the guilt and confusion in having to choose between his two families.
Honor and Polygamy is a fascinating look at Afghanistan that goes over and beyond what a mere travelogue, a history lesson or even an adventure thriller set in the mountains does. On the face of it, it is an adventure story involving a character called Nick but a deeper introspection will reveal that the author has painfully strived to tell something more through this book, to enlighten and shed more light on the rich and sometimes perplexing culture of a country. Afghans and people who have visited or served in Afghanistan are sure to applaud the level of accuracy and deep insights Omar provides into the country’s social, political and cultural environment.
The opening chapters in ‘Honor and Polygamy’ brilliantly capture the feelings of the lead character Nick as he prepares himself for the arduous journey ahead. Omar has captured Nick’s sense of awe, fear, confusion, guilt and determination very well as he discovers himself on this journey. A love story that springs out of nowhere reiterates the fact that you can never predict the wild aces life will throw at you. The portrayal of desperation and agony Nick has to undergo not once but twice, once trying to get back home and then trying to return back to where he started from is very realistically done. The kind of extraordinary undertakings he goes through is testament to the fact that a man will do just about anything and go to any lengths when his mind is clear about the decision made.
At times ‘Honor and Polygamy’reads like a memoir, partly because of the likeness to a first person narrative and partly also due to the amount of detailed emotions the author has been able to convey through the lead character’s journey; it is a rarity that you don’t usually get to see in other books of similar genesis. Omar Farhad very skilfully pulls you into this claustrophobic situation early on and from then, every step of the journey; the reader becomes a willing accomplice or a witness to Nick’s emotional and physical travails.There is a good mix of political and historical insight into the past, the present and the possible future for Afghanistan that has been presented alongside the core story. And it is something that should bring a little more awareness in people’s minds about a region that they have been hearing about for a long time but don’t really know much about due to the kind of limited and biased reporting we see today from the major news networks.
Omar Farhad takes you on a journey through ‘Honor and Polygamy’ that is bound to leave you with more knowledge and understanding than before. And everything in the book from the terrain to the people are going to leave a lasting impression in your mind. It’s one of those rare books that’s difficult to put down once you start reading it.
Paperback: 132 pages
Publisher: iUniverse (May 8, 2014)