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The surprising, stunning book that took the publishing world by storm: a coming-of-age memoir of unimaginable perils and unexpected joys, steeped in the rhythms of folk tales and poetry, that is as unforgettable as it is rare--a treasure for readers.   Qais Akbar Omar was born in Kabul in a time of relative peace. Until he was 7, he lived with his father, a high school physi The surprising, stunning book that took the publishing world by storm: a coming-of-age memoir of unimaginable perils and unexpected joys, steeped in the rhythms of folk tales and poetry, that is as unforgettable as it is rare--a treasure for readers.   Qais Akbar Omar was born in Kabul in a time of relative peace. Until he was 7, he lived with his father, a high school physics teacher, and mother, a bank manager, in the spacious, garden-filled compound his grandfather had built. Noisy with the laughter of his cousins (with whom they lived in the typical Afghan style), fragrant with the scent of roses and apple blossoms, and rich in shady, tucked-away spots where Qais and his grandfather sat and read, home was the idyllic centre of their quiet, comfortable life.   But in the wake of the Russian withdrawal and the bloody civil conflict that erupted, his family was forced to flee and take refuge in the legendary Fort of Nine Towers, a centuries-old palace in the hills on the far side of Kabul. On a perilous trip home, Omar and his father were kidnapped, narrowly escaping, and the family fled again, his parents leading their 6 children on a remarkable, sometimes wondrous journey. Hiding inside the famous giant Bamiyan Buddhas sculpture, and among Kurchi herders, Omar cobbles together an education, learning the beautiful art of carpet-weaving from a deaf mute girl, which will become the family's means of support. Against a backdrop of uncertainty, violence and absurdity, young Qais Omar weaves together a story--and a self--that is complex, colourful, and profound.


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The surprising, stunning book that took the publishing world by storm: a coming-of-age memoir of unimaginable perils and unexpected joys, steeped in the rhythms of folk tales and poetry, that is as unforgettable as it is rare--a treasure for readers.   Qais Akbar Omar was born in Kabul in a time of relative peace. Until he was 7, he lived with his father, a high school physi The surprising, stunning book that took the publishing world by storm: a coming-of-age memoir of unimaginable perils and unexpected joys, steeped in the rhythms of folk tales and poetry, that is as unforgettable as it is rare--a treasure for readers.   Qais Akbar Omar was born in Kabul in a time of relative peace. Until he was 7, he lived with his father, a high school physics teacher, and mother, a bank manager, in the spacious, garden-filled compound his grandfather had built. Noisy with the laughter of his cousins (with whom they lived in the typical Afghan style), fragrant with the scent of roses and apple blossoms, and rich in shady, tucked-away spots where Qais and his grandfather sat and read, home was the idyllic centre of their quiet, comfortable life.   But in the wake of the Russian withdrawal and the bloody civil conflict that erupted, his family was forced to flee and take refuge in the legendary Fort of Nine Towers, a centuries-old palace in the hills on the far side of Kabul. On a perilous trip home, Omar and his father were kidnapped, narrowly escaping, and the family fled again, his parents leading their 6 children on a remarkable, sometimes wondrous journey. Hiding inside the famous giant Bamiyan Buddhas sculpture, and among Kurchi herders, Omar cobbles together an education, learning the beautiful art of carpet-weaving from a deaf mute girl, which will become the family's means of support. Against a backdrop of uncertainty, violence and absurdity, young Qais Omar weaves together a story--and a self--that is complex, colourful, and profound.

30 review for A Fort of Nine Towers: An Afghan Family Story

  1. 5 out of 5

    Barb

    As an American, I find that our understanding of other countries is shaped by the media and conventional wisdom that distorts our view of world events. Only by reading does a clearer image, deeper understanding and the realization of human universal truths emerge. "A Fort of Nine Towers: An Afghan Family Story" by Qais Akbar Omar is one of the most powerful books I've read in years. Definitely my top book for 2013 and one that I will recommend to everyone. Omar's memoir of his family's passage t As an American, I find that our understanding of other countries is shaped by the media and conventional wisdom that distorts our view of world events. Only by reading does a clearer image, deeper understanding and the realization of human universal truths emerge. "A Fort of Nine Towers: An Afghan Family Story" by Qais Akbar Omar is one of the most powerful books I've read in years. Definitely my top book for 2013 and one that I will recommend to everyone. Omar's memoir of his family's passage through decades of civil war and unimaginable horrors was one of the most hopeful and life affirming books I have ever read. Yes, horrible tragedy occurs, but through it all the love and resilience of this family (or Afghan people) triumphs. I read this on my Nook but will buy the book and reread it so I can be reminded that behind the headlines live people that want all the same things we do...as this beautifully written book helps us understand.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Simra

    "I have long carried this load of griefs in the cage of my heart. Now I have given them to you. I hope you are strong enough to hold them." I give this book all the stars that are shining bright in the sky tonight. I am spellbound. I am stunned. I have no words to describe the grief this book holds. I bought A Fort of Nine Towers because I am a huge Khaled Hosseini fan, and he loved it. I knew I had to buy it, and within 48 hours I finished the book and I am writing this review with a heavy he "I have long carried this load of griefs in the cage of my heart. Now I have given them to you. I hope you are strong enough to hold them." I give this book all the stars that are shining bright in the sky tonight. I am spellbound. I am stunned. I have no words to describe the grief this book holds. I bought A Fort of Nine Towers because I am a huge Khaled Hosseini fan, and he loved it. I knew I had to buy it, and within 48 hours I finished the book and I am writing this review with a heavy heart. This is the writer, Qais Akbar Omar's real life story, his sufferings and his devastating war experience in Afghanistan. This is the first book on a true life memoir of growing up in the raging war zone of Afghanistan. A few times, I found myself smiling and crying at the same time because despite all the pain, the writer has managed to pen down his horrifying experiences on a lighter note but it speaks volumes of sadness. It truly does. A Fort of Nine Towers is a lyrical, powerful and a harrowing memoir of one family and how the war shattered their lives. When the civil war started getting out of hands, eleven year old Qais and his family set out to their aunt's house to escape the war, but a whole lot of life changing experiences were on the way. Qais and his family live like Kuchis (nomads), they live inside the head of a huge Buddha statue, he was bitten by a dog (one more human like dog bites him later) he meets a deaf woman who becomes his teacher and teaches him everything about weaving carpets. His grandfather's wise words, his friendship with Wakeel — the love and admiration he has for them is heart warming. Every word, every sentence left me speechless. I can not for the life of me comprehend the mental and physical traumas they must have endured. I could feel their pain, I cried when someone died. This is just one family's experience, it pains me to think about all the other families who have gone through similar grief and faced similar situations. I felt like I knew the characters personally, I could feel their traumas. I empathised with them. A must read book for everyone who loves to read, and for everyone who does not read. I want every single person on earth to read this book to know what war does, how much destruction it causes, how someone sleeps after being bombed several times a day, to know how to go on about life after coming face to face with death at least three times, to know how to not lose hope even though death was dancing around their heads every time of every day, to know how to live a righteous life after going through years of transgression. I could go on about this book, but I will end it here. Go buy this book and I promise you, you will be overwhelmed with countless emotions.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    "I have long carried this load of griefs in the cage of my heart. Now I have given them to you. I hope you are strong enough to hold them." Qais Akbar Omar Wow. A load of griefs is an understatement! This tale of life in Afghanistan written by one who lived through it all and triumphed is riveting. I am truly inspired by the positivity and love of life that comes through on every page in spite of the mind boggling hardships this family endured. I laughed and I cried through this amazing life story "I have long carried this load of griefs in the cage of my heart. Now I have given them to you. I hope you are strong enough to hold them." Qais Akbar Omar Wow. A load of griefs is an understatement! This tale of life in Afghanistan written by one who lived through it all and triumphed is riveting. I am truly inspired by the positivity and love of life that comes through on every page in spite of the mind boggling hardships this family endured. I laughed and I cried through this amazing life story. Thank you Mr. Omar for this wonderful, wonderful book which I will read again and again and recommend to everyone!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    Qais Akbar Omar's family could be considered one of the luckier ones, living through - but largely surviving - the horrors of life in late 20th century Afghanistan. This chronicle is raw, powerful, emotional, detailed and beautifully told. I've read a LOT of fiction set in Afghanistan over the years, so it has been quite an eye-opening experience for me to read this memoir and understand just how much of that fiction is strongly grounded in the reality of ordinary Afghani people, regardless of et Qais Akbar Omar's family could be considered one of the luckier ones, living through - but largely surviving - the horrors of life in late 20th century Afghanistan. This chronicle is raw, powerful, emotional, detailed and beautifully told. I've read a LOT of fiction set in Afghanistan over the years, so it has been quite an eye-opening experience for me to read this memoir and understand just how much of that fiction is strongly grounded in the reality of ordinary Afghani people, regardless of ethnicity or social/economic advantage. The author acknowledges the mentorship of Khaled Hosseini, so if you're one of the multitude who (like me) has read and loved Hosseini's novels, read this next.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    This is a book of epic proportions. It is an autobiography of a child’s upbringing in Afghanistan. The scope and the encounters are breathtaking. Despite the anguish he, his family, and his country have undergone the author writes with great tenderness. We begin with the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Due to the chaos of the warring factions in Kabul his family are forced to leave the ancestral home – which becomes taken over by thugs. They try unsuccessfully a few times to return t This is a book of epic proportions. It is an autobiography of a child’s upbringing in Afghanistan. The scope and the encounters are breathtaking. Despite the anguish he, his family, and his country have undergone the author writes with great tenderness. We begin with the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Due to the chaos of the warring factions in Kabul his family are forced to leave the ancestral home – which becomes taken over by thugs. They try unsuccessfully a few times to return to their home; the results are beyond tragedy. Page 85 (my book) Grandfather had just survived a near encounter with death; yet he was even more devastated to know that though our house was right in front of us, we could not go in. We walked into the street. We stood there and stared at our house and said nothing. They live for a time in a compound known by the books title (Nine Towers) – and they return back there towards the end of their long sojourn across their shattered land. They are forced to flee Kabul and the Nine Towers due to the imperilled conditions in Kabul, where rockets and bombs are hurled hither and thither between different groups. In their travels they are met at times with overwhelming kindness from strangers who provide the author and his family (his parents with their five children – three girls and two boys) with shelter and nourishment. As conditions between the warring factions change they are forced to flee time and again to find some form of safety. For a time they reside in the Bamyan Buddha statues. Page 169 (my book) I had always expected I would see our Buddha again. But the storm of ignorance that has been raging in Afghanistan for so many decades smashed him to bits before I could return. I once lived inside his head. Now he lives in mine. And in this splintered country there is extreme brutality. There is no such place as a safety zone. The Taliban provide some measure of stability (no bombs are exploding), but women can only leave the home covered in a burqa and with a male escort. However everyone is afraid to leave the house for fear of transgressing a Taliban edict. The author, as a teenager, is savagely imprisoned for over a week due to his hair style. After the invasion in October 2001 Kabul residents are ecstatic, once again, to be able to listen to music which was forbidden by the Taliban. The author does not detail the years after 2001. This book is about the prior years. It is written with wonderful eloquence of the conversations and encounters in this most devastated on nations. We come away from this book with a clarity, and to some extent, a hopefulness. It is a searing account of his upbringing. The author writes very lyrically with a great deal of soulfulness.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Scott Rhee

    It's difficult to even imagine what life is like in a country ravaged by constant civil war, government coups, and militant uprising. Certainly, the United States is not perfect. We have our own sources of strife and political upheaval, but we can all pray to our respective deities that the horrors of Afghanistan have not yet found its way to our city streets on the scale that Afghanis face on a daily basis. When a trip to the store for milk means possibly never seeing one's family ever again, c It's difficult to even imagine what life is like in a country ravaged by constant civil war, government coups, and militant uprising. Certainly, the United States is not perfect. We have our own sources of strife and political upheaval, but we can all pray to our respective deities that the horrors of Afghanistan have not yet found its way to our city streets on the scale that Afghanis face on a daily basis. When a trip to the store for milk means possibly never seeing one's family ever again, checking one's Facebook or Twitter status or catching the new Brad Pitt movie becomes increasingly insignificant. Sadly, for many Americans, Afghanistan burst onto the radar in a big way on Sept. 11, 2001. We all suddenly learned a lot more about Afghanistan that day, but it was unfortunately behind a filtered lens of retribution and anger. Many of us forgot (or chose to ignore) the fact that our war was not necessarily with the Afghani people but rather the backwards-thinking cave-dwelling militant fundamentalists led and financed by Osama bin Laden. Even the majority of Afghani citizens detested bin Laden and the group known as the Taliban. Qais Akbar Omar's beautifully written memoir "A Fort of Nine Towers" joins a steadily-growing oeuvre of literature about Afghanistan targeted toward American readers. Like Khaled Hosseini's novel "The Kite Runner", Qaisr's memoir is a personal account of his experience growing up in the tumultuous country of Afghanistan, and specifically the city of Kabul, made all the more powerful by the fact that it is non-fiction. Growing up, young Qais (it rhymes with "rice") saw the aftermath of the Russian invasion and the rise of the Mujahadin, a group of rebels who may have started with good intentions but quickly devolved into the killings and bombings for which it became notorious. Qais and his many siblings were forced to watch as family members and friends slowly left the country or were killed by sporadic bombings and gunfire. Qais's father, a well-to-do carpet seller, was forced out of business when his factory and shop were destroyed by a fire caused by a stray missile. The Omar family soon found themselves nomads, wandering the desert and going from city to city to find food and shelter. In later years, Qais watched as the fundamentalist group known as the Taliban (hated by most Afghanis as uneducated country folk) came to power and created strict laws that may have reduced crime but also increased misery. Imagine the Westboro Baptist Church taking over the U.S. government and instituting strict laws (everything from banning any non-Christian books or movies from libraries and schools, making homosexuality punishable by death, and forbidding women to leave the house), and you pretty much get the idea of what life was like in Afghanistan. The most striking thing about Qais's account is the love and familial bonds that kept the family going. Indeed, the charity and open arms that the Omar family encountered from distant relatives and even total strangers is what keeps the reader turning the pages and keeps the bleakness and utter despair of the family's situation from becoming too daunting.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nahil Sherzoy

    I just finished A Fort of Nine Towers: An Afghan Family Story by Qais Akbar Omar and gave it 5 stars. This nonfiction, heart wrenching story is a MUST READ for all. I say this because it gives a crystal clear perspective of life in Afghanistan during the civil war and, the aftermath. Mr. Akbar's journey is harrowing yet unforgettable. This book needs to be read in schools around the world bc I believe it will change people. It will open their eyes to the true history of Afghanistan and the suffe I just finished A Fort of Nine Towers: An Afghan Family Story by Qais Akbar Omar and gave it 5 stars. This nonfiction, heart wrenching story is a MUST READ for all. I say this because it gives a crystal clear perspective of life in Afghanistan during the civil war and, the aftermath. Mr. Akbar's journey is harrowing yet unforgettable. This book needs to be read in schools around the world bc I believe it will change people. It will open their eyes to the true history of Afghanistan and the suffering and injustices that have been endured. These stories will stay with me forever.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mahrose Nawaz

    This book will leave you speechless. Speechless.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    Whew! This is Qais detailing his life in Afghanistan from about 1992 until just recently. He is 10 at the beginning and his family lives in Kabul in his Grandfather's house/ compound. No further synopsis, just a reaction. Finally, I have some idea about the real crux of Afghanistan's instability and decades of war. Civil War prime actually, with more than just a couple of opponents is only one set of factors. And not based in just religious differences at all, but also in tribal, economic, cultur Whew! This is Qais detailing his life in Afghanistan from about 1992 until just recently. He is 10 at the beginning and his family lives in Kabul in his Grandfather's house/ compound. No further synopsis, just a reaction. Finally, I have some idea about the real crux of Afghanistan's instability and decades of war. Civil War prime actually, with more than just a couple of opponents is only one set of factors. And not based in just religious differences at all, but also in tribal, economic, cultural, mores and manners clash. Sounding like a beautiful physical environment in different climates, and filled with families of close attachment and dedication to blood connection- STILL, there is such uncertainty underpinning all. The journey that this family takes to stay together, stay alive, and try to leave Afghanistan itself- well, it is beyond my describing ability. Three steps backward for even one forward. Readers need strong stomach to get through times when Qais and his father get caught in different factions' nets. While trying to retrieve from their own former home yet. It's a memoir that purely glows with sharp eyes and poetic imagination within the most difficult of harrowing and impossible to foresee outcomes. This book was not recommended to me but found without any previewing or trailer read on the "New" shelf and taken without any idea that it would be this illuminating. This is a must read to Middle Eastern (Palestine, Syria, Libya absolutely) base conflict understanding, as well as Afghan War perception. It's not just from the outside in or ideologue movement, or faith based difference; it's far more complex. If there was a sixth star rating, this one would get it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

    "I have long carried this load of griefs in the cage of my heart. Now I have given them to you. I hope you are strong enough to hold them." Qais Akbar Omar Qasis shares his unforgettable story of a simple loving family and a country in endless turmoil and conflict. His family is torn apart by the destruction war brings as well as its hideous atrocities committed against its own people based on religious and tribal differences. Afghanistan is a country misunderstood and its culture is "I have long carried this load of griefs in the cage of my heart. Now I have given them to you. I hope you are strong enough to hold them." Qais Akbar Omar Qasis shares his unforgettable story of a simple loving family and a country in endless turmoil and conflict. His family is torn apart by the destruction war brings as well as its hideous atrocities committed against its own people based on religious and tribal differences. Afghanistan is a country misunderstood and its culture is suffering at the hands of discord. Qasis writes with honesty and openness. His story is affecting as well as inspirational serving an example of resilience. A family among many impacted by the endless and long suffering of a country at odds. A must read for all to become aware of what is happening in this country often under a veil of intrigue.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    I read a review of this book that said, "if you read only one book this summer, make it this one" . I heeded that advice and I am so glad I did. The author, Quais Akbar Omar, writes of growing up in a country that has been ravaged by war for years. His writing style is simple and beautiful, poetic at times. The tale that he tells of his familiy's survival adventures are amazing, horrifying, inspiring and unforgettable. His father and mother are nothing short of heroic. I always thought of Afghan I read a review of this book that said, "if you read only one book this summer, make it this one" . I heeded that advice and I am so glad I did. The author, Quais Akbar Omar, writes of growing up in a country that has been ravaged by war for years. His writing style is simple and beautiful, poetic at times. The tale that he tells of his familiy's survival adventures are amazing, horrifying, inspiring and unforgettable. His father and mother are nothing short of heroic. I always thought of Afghanistan as a violent, war torn country, but it is easy to forget that the majority of the people there, just like anywhere, just want to make a living, raise their families and live in peace. It is sad that the fanaticism and aggression of a few, make the lives of innocent people so hellish. I loved this book. I hope lots of people read it. You can hear the author being interviewed on The Diane Reames Show on PBS.org.

  12. 5 out of 5

    VaultOfBooks

    By Qais Akbar Omar. Grade: B+ Sitting in the comforts of our rooms, we feel that life is so tough. But there is an entire world out which lives on an entirely different plane – a world where people live in limitations, in a seemingly endless scarcity of resources. When such tales of despair come across, it surprises as well as pains the heart making it yearn for the one on the other side. But these tales also bring with them hope – a hope of human perseverance’s victory against all odds, over all By Qais Akbar Omar. Grade: B+ Sitting in the comforts of our rooms, we feel that life is so tough. But there is an entire world out which lives on an entirely different plane – a world where people live in limitations, in a seemingly endless scarcity of resources. When such tales of despair come across, it surprises as well as pains the heart making it yearn for the one on the other side. But these tales also bring with them hope – a hope of human perseverance’s victory against all odds, over all atrocities; a hope of someday seeing a better world. It is this hope that drives us as inhabitants of this planet to strive on. A Fort of Nine Towers is one such tale of hope.Since this is a non-fiction (almost) book, there is no question about the plot. But the writing is not amateurish, which is a very good thing. It so happens that in novels such as this, the narration becomes a rant or a description of pangs. The absence of this characteristic is the best thing about A Fort of Nine Towers. (extract) ‘“I’m not a coward, but I am afraid of being killed by a coward”’ It is such sentiments which are common probably to every single entity in a war-struck nation. Such emotions range across the populace but only after being ravaged by a war for so long. It is the kind of emotion that stems from the mental strength of people who feel that their religion, their beliefs are manipulated by some fanatics to satisfy their own ends – the mental strength derived from exploitation, the strength derived from the verity of one’s beliefs. (ezxtract) ‘“In a war, every man is needed, so he was sent here. But wicked people like him bring shame to us Hazaras and to the Mujahideen.”’ It only seems fair for every coin to have two sides. The antagonism of the situation is only because of the method used, but the cause, in itself, probably stems from a genuine cause. However, for a victim to have acknowledged this other shows not only strength of character but the ability to have made peace with the events transpiring in one’s life, that takes maturity of a different level altogether. (extract) ‘Uncertainty hangs thick like the dust in the air.’ This was probably the strongest line in the entire novel – metaphor used to perfection. The only problem I found was with the character sketch. No doubt, that this is a non-fiction book piece; definitely the characters cannot be larger than life. Yet they can be created to reside in memories. This required some extra effort from the author, even more so because the narrative is non-fictional and from a first person perspective. The characters in this novel are sketched in what could probably be known as a weaker manner. Another issue would be that of connectivity to the reader. A major chunk of the details mentioned in the novel are of the nature that the reader might skim through them. The novel is not short – it’s a 300-odd page novel. What such detailing or lengthening can do is make the reader lose interest at certain junctures while reading. Had it been a little more concise, it would have been much more impactful. (extract) ‘Every Friday, the Muslim holy day when schools and businesses closed, we carried…’ The more appropriate sentence would be when schools and businesses are closed or remain closed. To sum up, I’d say Qais Akbar Omar, through A Fort of Nine Towers, sends one message – even in the darkest of times, life continues to teach one thing or the other. It is these experiences that build one’s character. It’s like smelting – even if it is a metal like iron or aluminium, it has to stand the test of fire if it is fall into a mould and serve its function. “Originally reviewed at Vaultofbooks.com, a close-knit community of fanatical readers. We are looking for perceptive readers who can write well, and we are eager to provide lots of free books in exchange for reviews. Shot us a mail at [email protected]

  13. 4 out of 5

    Diane Yannick

    Afghanistan was constantly besieged by civil wars and horrendous Taliban actions during the decade from 1992-2002. Quais describes many of the atrocities he witnessed, yet he holds on to his love for his homeland and his family. Kites, rug weaving, and family love contrast with the brutal savagery of the fighting and Taliban rules. Quais' family is constantly trying to find safe places to live until they can return to what's left of their home. Going to school was often not an option but the fam Afghanistan was constantly besieged by civil wars and horrendous Taliban actions during the decade from 1992-2002. Quais describes many of the atrocities he witnessed, yet he holds on to his love for his homeland and his family. Kites, rug weaving, and family love contrast with the brutal savagery of the fighting and Taliban rules. Quais' family is constantly trying to find safe places to live until they can return to what's left of their home. Going to school was often not an option but the family's love of books and learning never wavered. His descriptions of the words and actions of his mother, father and grandfather were often breathtakingly beautiful. His descriptions of the countryside were full of sensual details. The scenes where Quais is learning to knot a rug are simply gorgeous. There is humor interspersed like his escapade with the dog and the pomegranates. This book is a special inside look at Afghanistan written by an Afghan who experienced more than most of us could ever imagine. It is not told with bitterness or even a speck of self- pity but rather with an underlying optimism that as a family they could survive whatever hardships came their way. They always remembered what was: " In the time before the fighting, before the rockets, before the warlords and their false promises, before the sudden disappearance of so many people we knew to graves of foreign lands, before the Taliban and their madness, before the smell of death hung daily in the air and the ground was soaked in blood, we lived well." The only reason I didn't give this book 5 stars was that I thought there were a few parts that needed to be pared down. The narrative was occasionally bogged down by the details/tangents. So Quais Akbar Omar looks back on his childhood as he writes his family's story. At the end, he tells us: "I have long carried this load of griefs in the cage of my heart. Now I have given them to you. I hope you are strong enough to hold them." Thank you for this window to your world, Quais.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Natalie Pavlis

    I have not been so moved by a book in a long while. Nine Towers contains within its' pages stories of the best and, sadly, the worst of humanity. His story has given me a new perspective on Afghanistan. For anyone who loves the books of Khalid Hosseini, this book is a must read! But, it is all the more beautiful, heart- wrenching, and hopeful (compared to Hosseini's novels) because it is true. I have not been so moved by a book in a long while. Nine Towers contains within its' pages stories of the best and, sadly, the worst of humanity. His story has given me a new perspective on Afghanistan. For anyone who loves the books of Khalid Hosseini, this book is a must read! But, it is all the more beautiful, heart- wrenching, and hopeful (compared to Hosseini's novels) because it is true.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nadia

    Reading Qais Akbar Omar's very personal tale of strength and fortitude is also a lesson in Afghanistan's tumultuous history. He explains, in heartbreaking detail, what it means to live through a civil war. Very glad he's shared his story with the world. Reading Qais Akbar Omar's very personal tale of strength and fortitude is also a lesson in Afghanistan's tumultuous history. He explains, in heartbreaking detail, what it means to live through a civil war. Very glad he's shared his story with the world.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rianto Dermawan

    To compare with Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, reading A Fort of Nine Towers by Qais Akbar Omar is like listening to a cover version of a famous music. Instead Qais' story contain no surprises on the spot because it is embedded in the daily news. Which should Qais be able to make the story more drama nuanced. That is the perceived difference between the two Afghans writers To compare with Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, reading A Fort of Nine Towers by Qais Akbar Omar is like listening to a cover version of a famous music. Instead Qais' story contain no surprises on the spot because it is embedded in the daily news. Which should Qais be able to make the story more drama nuanced. That is the perceived difference between the two Afghans writers

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Ann

    A Fort of Nine Towers is Qais Akbar Omar's heartbreaking and inspiring true revelations about the turmoil and trauma he, and his family, experienced over the course of 12 or so years of great upheaval in his homeland of Afghanistan. This novel is truly eye opening, life changing, and searing to the heart, but is told with no embellishment, no tools to create unnecessary drama, the stark and honest tone of Qais's story is rending to the heart and spirit. At many points, the reader has to wonder h A Fort of Nine Towers is Qais Akbar Omar's heartbreaking and inspiring true revelations about the turmoil and trauma he, and his family, experienced over the course of 12 or so years of great upheaval in his homeland of Afghanistan. This novel is truly eye opening, life changing, and searing to the heart, but is told with no embellishment, no tools to create unnecessary drama, the stark and honest tone of Qais's story is rending to the heart and spirit. At many points, the reader has to wonder how Qais survived all he did, and how he came out of it with such a strong connection to his homeland, his family, and his own sense of right and wrong. This story is one that will show you a glimpse of life in a country, Afghanistan, that many have misconceptions about, and reminds us all that people are people no matter where they are born, what they believe, and underneath it all, most just want to be free to live a life of peace and freedom from violence and war. An exceptional story by an exceptional writer, who just happens to be an exceptional human being. **WARNING, THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS** Qais Akbar Omar begins his true-life tale as a child in a very large and tight-knit family living in a large compound in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan at the time the Russian forces are finally leaving the country in 1989. Afghanistan, after years of Socialist influence, is in political turmoil, but Qais and his family are optimistic that the change will bring with it positive changes in his country. Qais lives in his Grandfather's home, a compound of rooms that house his large extended family, many uncles and their wives and children. He looks up to his father, a well respected former boxer and a physics teacher, who also sells and trades precious antique hand-knotted rugs. He is very close to his Grandfather, and looks up to him with great respect, as does the community he lives in. His Grandfather is well respected, and often advises people on business matters as well as works to ensure that the community provides support for members in need. It is clear that Qais has a good life, his family is well established and relatively wealthy, but they are richer for their close relationships between siblings and cousins. Their days consist of learning, sharing meals, flying kites, and enjoying the beautiful gardens of the city of Kabul. The first signs of change occur when the shouts of the Mujahedin, or Holy Warriors, can be heard in the streets in 1991. From this point on, nothing and no one is safe. Snipers hide in the nearby hills, rockets pound the beautiful city of Kabul and the city once known for it's gardens and tree lined streets becomes the center of civil war that rages for years to come. Qais Akbar Omar relates his tale of escaping the city and leaving behind his beloved home, while his entire family tries to find a way to safety. Food is scarce, danger is everywhere, and it seems that no matter how hard Qais's father tries to find a way out of the country, their attempts to flee are thwarted at every turn. With no money and no connections, the family moves from place to place with only the guidance of the BBC World News radio reports. Many times I felt dread as Qais tells his story, the violence he is exposed to is frightening, and one wonders how anyone survived the civil war that lasted so long between warring factions of the Mujahedin. Family losses are heavy, and weigh heavily on young Qais's developing sense of self. When the Mujehedin is ousted by the Taliban, things go from bad to worse. Now the dangers are not bombs and sniper bullets, but a twisted take on the Islamic religion that means no one is safe from judgement, and following ever tightening rules becomes almost an impossibility. This unique inside view of how the Taliban seemed to come out of no-where and gain a strangle hold on the entire country is frightening. Qais describes something that only an insider, a survivor, could share. The wild swings of fortune, and more often, misfortune are visceral and pulsating with dread. If you have ever wondered what it was like to live under Taliban rule, you must read this book. If you have ever wondered what living in a war-zone, where infighting between different factions of a Holy War literally decimate a population and a country, you must read this book. If you have wondered about the people of Afghanistan, the people just trying to live day to day, then this book will give you a glimpse that is fascinating. Most of all, this book is an amazing personal memoir of survival, and a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the connections of family and culture. Bottom Line: I highly recommend A Fort of Nine Towers by Qais Akbar Omar, it is so many wonderful things all in one gripping and riveting novel. It will change your view of a people, a country, and the amazing strength of one boy growing up in the most unsettled of times for this one country, Afghanistan, in all of it's history. Simply remarkable. ** Note, this review is based on a copy that was obtained as part of the Goodreads, First Reads giveaways. The opinions expressed are my own and are in no way influenced by the Publisher, Author, or Goodreads.com **

  18. 4 out of 5

    Marina

    ** Books 82 - 2018 ** This books to accomplish Tsundoku Books Challenge 2018 3,7 of 5 stars! Review to be comtinued! Thankyou Big Bad Wolf 2018

  19. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    It is hard not to think of "The Kiterunner" when reading this book. What makes this story different is that it is true. Qais Akbar Omar describes his life in Afghanistan from age 10 through age 19. It is an amazing story told beautifully through the eyes of a child and emerging young adult. Beginning with his life in Kabul before the political unrest, we see a loving, prosperous, joyous family. Then he describes the night when everything he has known changes. His family flees their home for surv It is hard not to think of "The Kiterunner" when reading this book. What makes this story different is that it is true. Qais Akbar Omar describes his life in Afghanistan from age 10 through age 19. It is an amazing story told beautifully through the eyes of a child and emerging young adult. Beginning with his life in Kabul before the political unrest, we see a loving, prosperous, joyous family. Then he describes the night when everything he has known changes. His family flees their home for survival. Qais lives through some horrific events - imprisonment, torture, bombings, attempted rape, sniper attacks, the death of people he loves - yet, he maintains a beautiful spirit of human kindness and decency. And, when we see his world as he did at 12 years old, it fills you with empathy and a better understanding of what this nation has endured for decades. What I loved about this book - the pacing and the descriptions of the interactions between Qais and the people he loves and the people he befriended. Qais has a very special relationship with his Grandfather. For anyone who has loved and been loved by an older relative this will certainly resonate with them. His Grandfather tells stories and gives him advice throughout the book. I loved his story about the 3 stages of marriage. "The first stage is that you talk, and your wife listens. The second stage is, she talks and you listen. And the third stage is, both of you talk, and your neighbors listen," he said with a grin growing wide at the corners of his mouth until it became a big and loud laugh. "The first stage is the best," he said. Qais makes friends during his family's nomadic journey from Kabul. He befriends a shepherd, Omar Khan, who turns out to be a distant cousin. The letter Omar subsequently writes to Qais gave me a knot in my throat. He also makes friends with neighbors in another village and learns to weave carpets from a beautiful young woman who cannot hear or speak. He visits a monk while they live in a cave behind a carved Buddha one winter. And, he talks to a prostitute to learn the reason for her lifestyle - such a touching moment when she asks him why he would want to learn her history. "No, I don't know you, but I'm a human like you, and we should share the sorrows and the joys together." I loved that at the end of the book, Qais lets the reader know if he has encountered any of these significant people in his life again. There is a joyful moment when he finds someone who once saved his life. There was one part of Qais' life story that I was so horrified and heartbroken reading that I had to put the book down for a while. I have never read about such unimaginable cruelty. In that respect, it was very much like "The Kiterunner." That Qais survives and continues to care about others and do the right things in life is a story I find inspirational. 5* and highly recommend.

  20. 4 out of 5

    PDXReader

    A Fort of Nine Towers is the first-person account of Omar's childhood and teen years in war-torn Afghanistan. He grew up during an especially turbulent time in the country's history, witnessing the departure of the occupying Russian troops, the ensuing civil war that inflicted incredible hardship on the population as the mujahedeen sought to fill the vacuum, the subsequent takeover by the Taliban, and finally their ouster by the foreign coalition formed after 9/11. This is not the best written b A Fort of Nine Towers is the first-person account of Omar's childhood and teen years in war-torn Afghanistan. He grew up during an especially turbulent time in the country's history, witnessing the departure of the occupying Russian troops, the ensuing civil war that inflicted incredible hardship on the population as the mujahedeen sought to fill the vacuum, the subsequent takeover by the Taliban, and finally their ouster by the foreign coalition formed after 9/11. This is not the best written book I've ever read, but I found that it hardly mattered. The author relays both the good and the bad things he experienced with such clarity and depth that both his joy and his pain are palpable. I was particularly impressed with the love he and his family bore for each other throughout all their trials, never letting each other down. I found it a very moving story. It's also an open-ended one. As each occupying force left Afghanistan Omar began to hope that things would improve. And it sounds like things have gotten better since the Taliban left, but that there's still a long way to go, and one can sense Omar's disappointment that the coalition has not done a better job helping the country get back on its feet. His honesty was refreshing. At times Omar describes his life in idyllic terms, particularly his early childhood and throughout the middle section of the book where he and his family live a nomadic lifestyle. However, there are large chunks of his account that are almost unbelievably horrific. If you're the sensitive type, you should probably give this one a miss; it'll give you nightmares. I really felt I learned something from the author's account, and I think anyone with an interest in what's been going on in Afghanistan over the past 30 years would do well to pick up a copy.

  21. 5 out of 5

    DubaiReader

    A powerful read. This book certainly packed a punch! An autobiographical story of a young boy's life in Afghanistan, from the final days of Communism, through civil war and the Mujahideen war lords, to the rise of the Taliban. His is a wealthy, well educated family, who must leave behind their home and wealth to escape the rocket attacks between neighbouring factions of the Mujahideen. They pile sixteen family members into the car and drive the five miles to a friend's house, known as the Fort of N A powerful read. This book certainly packed a punch! An autobiographical story of a young boy's life in Afghanistan, from the final days of Communism, through civil war and the Mujahideen war lords, to the rise of the Taliban. His is a wealthy, well educated family, who must leave behind their home and wealth to escape the rocket attacks between neighbouring factions of the Mujahideen. They pile sixteen family members into the car and drive the five miles to a friend's house, known as the Fort of Nine Towers. This becomes their new home and the starting point for the many adventures they experience in their ultimate quest to escape from Afghanistan into a new life. This is a very close knit family and the love really shines through, in spite of the extreme situations they find themselves in. They are surrounded by a lot of cruelty and sadistic behaviour from the ruling powers, which at times can be harrowing to read about, let alone imagine living through. The Taliban the author describes are illiterate, unwashed and violent. Although I have read several books about Afghanistan at this time, most concentrate on the restrictions placed on women, so this was particularly interesting, coming from a male author and covering the problems from a male perspective. We discussed Fort of Nine Towers at our multicultural book group and it was an excellent discussion. One point that was raised however, that did make me think, was the question as to whether all this really happened to one man or if he may have included a few experiences from other friends or relatives. I'm on the fence with this question, but I can see why one might wonder.... In spite of this, a truly powerful read, absolutely fascinating, this gripped me right to the end. Highly recommended.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    A Fort Of Nine Towers is the memoir of Qais Akbar Omar's life between the ages of eleven and adulthood, a period in Afghan history of great turmoil. This book is actually two separate stories: the first a warm and often poetic tale of Qais' life within his large extended family and the second a brutal narration of the savage and senseless happenings when he falls into the power of first, the Mujahedin and their civil wars, and then the Taliban. The entwining of these two threads is what I feel m A Fort Of Nine Towers is the memoir of Qais Akbar Omar's life between the ages of eleven and adulthood, a period in Afghan history of great turmoil. This book is actually two separate stories: the first a warm and often poetic tale of Qais' life within his large extended family and the second a brutal narration of the savage and senseless happenings when he falls into the power of first, the Mujahedin and their civil wars, and then the Taliban. The entwining of these two threads is what I feel makes this book so extraordinary. Beauty is integral to this book; the poetry of the language, the reverence for the country's history, the words of Islam, the gentleness of the people... I could go on forever. Some of the people that populate this book are unforgettable- I was especially taken with his mute teacher and his wise grandfather. His family's travels to escape the violence are riveting- imagine living in the eye of the giant Bamyan Buddah! The section where he and his family are rescued and stay in the garden in Tashkurghan and later his travels with his nomadic Kuchi relatives were cathartic- in the midst of much danger there is such kindness. The savagery, and there is a lot, becomes bearable only in the light of this.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    This book is perfection. It excels on different levels. Qais' memoir is, first and foremost, a memoir of a man living though one of the biggest, hardest to comprehend conflicts of our age. He gives the reader a poignant and personal view of events that pulls away the clouded view all the political posturing of reporting that modern reporting gives to readers in the Western world. This book gives us that, but in addition, if gives us the story of a family and city as utterly perplexed as Western This book is perfection. It excels on different levels. Qais' memoir is, first and foremost, a memoir of a man living though one of the biggest, hardest to comprehend conflicts of our age. He gives the reader a poignant and personal view of events that pulls away the clouded view all the political posturing of reporting that modern reporting gives to readers in the Western world. This book gives us that, but in addition, if gives us the story of a family and city as utterly perplexed as Western readers about that conflict. In that sense this book is also a memoir of a people. For the writer to capture that during a memoir is not easy, usually they get lost in one level or the other. Qais does this with a masterful touch. Then, even more beautifully, he also gives us a memoir of a developing psyche. The hardest of all things to capture/portray is the ephemeral nature of the inner world, let alone the development of it. This is the true jewel of the book. His use of conversations with his grandfather and cousin, along with other members of the family, is his primary tool to do this. As a writer, Qais doesn't chase his goal with relentlessness that gets tiresome to read, but rather with a gentle coaxing that allows him convey so much more. Highly recommend.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Laura Caisley

    I found this book full of despair and of hope in a very turbulent time in Afghanistan. Qais Akbar Omar and his family (including numerous aunts,uncles, cousins and grandfather) are forced to endure the many horrors of war, including Qais and his father being tortured in prison. In order to keep their family safe, Qais and his family flee Kabul and live a nomadic life staying with relatives in far other cities in Afghanistan. Qais and his family want to return to their home as soon as they feel i I found this book full of despair and of hope in a very turbulent time in Afghanistan. Qais Akbar Omar and his family (including numerous aunts,uncles, cousins and grandfather) are forced to endure the many horrors of war, including Qais and his father being tortured in prison. In order to keep their family safe, Qais and his family flee Kabul and live a nomadic life staying with relatives in far other cities in Afghanistan. Qais and his family want to return to their home as soon as they feel it is safe. When they do return, nothing is the same as the paradise they once enjoyed in their home and city. Qais struggles to help his father make money to support his siblings and mother in the midst of war and chaos. It was easy to feel connected to this character and could not help but wonder when their bad luck would turn around. Great reading, suspenseful and shocking at times. I would definitely recommend this book to others and look forward to read as misquote from this author.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Gábor

    This book has multiple layers of stories. The story of Afghanistan, spiraling into civil war through the Mujahideen and Taliban takeovers. The story of an upper-middle class family of bankers, teachers, carpet merchants falling into destitution, and robbed of most of their possessions. And the story of the author who survives several extortion kidnappings, travels his country while a civil war is in full force, lives in the head of the later blown up Buddha statues, travels with nomads, learns c This book has multiple layers of stories. The story of Afghanistan, spiraling into civil war through the Mujahideen and Taliban takeovers. The story of an upper-middle class family of bankers, teachers, carpet merchants falling into destitution, and robbed of most of their possessions. And the story of the author who survives several extortion kidnappings, travels his country while a civil war is in full force, lives in the head of the later blown up Buddha statues, travels with nomads, learns carpet weaving, survives Taliban prison without being raped, opens an illegal carpet factory based on child labor (illegal as it employs females outside their homes, child labor is OK), and manages to attend a university in the USA. Stories so out there, that they must be true.

  26. 4 out of 5

    MaryJane Rings

    A story that won't be broadcast by the media or written in a history text but tells a wonderful story of the Afghan people, their lifestyles, family loyalty, kindness to others,their spirit and perseverance. They endured more physical,emotional and mental abuse than the average American could even begin to imagine. The physical torture, beatings and whippings alone are unbearable to read about but feeling the horror is something indescribable. Through it all they were able to rise above their to A story that won't be broadcast by the media or written in a history text but tells a wonderful story of the Afghan people, their lifestyles, family loyalty, kindness to others,their spirit and perseverance. They endured more physical,emotional and mental abuse than the average American could even begin to imagine. The physical torture, beatings and whippings alone are unbearable to read about but feeling the horror is something indescribable. Through it all they were able to rise above their tormentors,remain loyal to their religion and to GOD without bitterness. They were able to rebuild their lives even after they lost all of their material possessions. It is a story of hope and love of country and keeps the reader in awe to the last page. Well written and a very different look at the lives of middle class educated citizens who survive terrible adversary in a war torn nation.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nigel

    Stunning - I loved Qais's insight into the recent past of his country. Moving, violent, warm, exotic it covers history, religion, art and war among other issues in simple yet often poetic language. One of the best books I've read this year and anyone who has enjoyed Khaled Hosseini's work should find it very appealing. Equally it would be good for anyone with an interest it the real life or ordinary people in this area. Stunning - I loved Qais's insight into the recent past of his country. Moving, violent, warm, exotic it covers history, religion, art and war among other issues in simple yet often poetic language. One of the best books I've read this year and anyone who has enjoyed Khaled Hosseini's work should find it very appealing. Equally it would be good for anyone with an interest it the real life or ordinary people in this area.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Marie

    I cried tears of joy and tears of great sadness. I care about this author as if he is part of my family. I feel differently about Afghans (perhaps, more accurately, I now have an opinion and feelings about Afghans). I know there are pages that I skipped because I felt such pain for the lack of humanity. I will get back and read those middle pages -- I promise. How did he write so matter-of-factly and yet with such depth of emotion? I'm still pondering it all. I cried tears of joy and tears of great sadness. I care about this author as if he is part of my family. I feel differently about Afghans (perhaps, more accurately, I now have an opinion and feelings about Afghans). I know there are pages that I skipped because I felt such pain for the lack of humanity. I will get back and read those middle pages -- I promise. How did he write so matter-of-factly and yet with such depth of emotion? I'm still pondering it all.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Roya

    Qais Akbar Omar's memoir is a harrowing perspective into a young boy's quest for survival with his family during the war of the warlords that ensued in the 1990s. This is an informative companion to Khaled's novels- (The KiteRunner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and And the Mountains Echoed). Powerful page turner- literally could not put it down and am haunted by Omar's experiences. Qais Akbar Omar's memoir is a harrowing perspective into a young boy's quest for survival with his family during the war of the warlords that ensued in the 1990s. This is an informative companion to Khaled's novels- (The KiteRunner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and And the Mountains Echoed). Powerful page turner- literally could not put it down and am haunted by Omar's experiences.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    One of the most beautiful and poetic memoirs I've ever read. It's hard to understand how such a harrowing story can still be uplifting. Omar tells the story of his family's journey through decades of war, torture, and civil in-fighting while never losing sight of the power of family bonds and the sustaining nature of the arts and philosophical principles. A miraculous book. One of the most beautiful and poetic memoirs I've ever read. It's hard to understand how such a harrowing story can still be uplifting. Omar tells the story of his family's journey through decades of war, torture, and civil in-fighting while never losing sight of the power of family bonds and the sustaining nature of the arts and philosophical principles. A miraculous book.

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