I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
Politics, religion, and culture clash as one man must return to his home decades after civil war and a question of his cowardice threatened to upend his standing in society in author Sharifullah Dorani’s “The Lone Leopard”.
THE LONE LEOPARD is a heart-wrenching, yet hopeful story of family, friendship and love set against the nationalistic and religious conflicts of Afghanistan’s last four decades. 15-year-old Ahmad finds it hard to live by tradition among Russians and ‘Communist Afghans’ in the liberal Makroryan, known as the ‘Little Moscow of Kabul’. It becomes harder with the arrival in the neighbourhood of the 16-year-old Frishta. Naturally, their conflicting outlooks on tradition clash. Frishta calls Ahmad a shameful coward, and Ahmad accuses Frishta of being a ‘bad woman’ who has picked a war with half of the population and their way of life.
Does Ahmad really lack courage and loyalty? Is Frishta really dishonourable? It is 1990s Afghanistan, where a man is stripped of character if he is proved a coward, and where a woman is merely seen as valuable goods, and even a perception of unchastity will lose her all her worth. And, worse, is what Ahmad does to Frishta justifiable? By the time Ahmad and Frishta have answers to these questions, it is too late, and their lives will never be the same. The mujahedeen run over Kabul, and the civil war begins, compelling Ahmad to flee to Russia and then to England.
But Ahmad does not realize that one day he will be forced to return to the homeland where his past catches up with him and puts him in a situation in which he has to choose to either live like a coward, by killing a once-loyal friend, or die with courage.
The author did an incredible job of crafting a story that both brought to life and examined the history and culture of Afghanistan and infused complex character dynamics with rich storytelling. The contemporary drama explored the historical fiction genres and Middle Eastern history expertly, and the tragedy that often comes to those caught in the crossfire of war and conflict. The exploration of Afghanistan’s somewhat troubled past with women’s rights and the conflict that emerges when faith and belief systems come into play clashes well with the exploration of outside influences bringing innocent civilians and villages into the list of casualties of a war they had nothing to do with.
Yet it was the emphasis on relationships and their impact on the cast of characters that really captured my attention. At the root and heart of this grand narrative of culture and history stands the story of a young man who along with his friends and family witnesses heartbreak, violence, and tragedy and how it impacts his relationships moving forward. The relationship between the protagonist Ahmad and his mother Mourr held a special place in my heart, as it speaks to the strength and resilience that many mothers have as they sacrifice everything for their children. This also lends to the protagonist’s future relationships with others down the road, and the complex questions of morality and culture that play into his development as a character.
Thought-provoking, heartbreaking, and engaging, author Sharifullah Dorani’s “The Lone Leopard” is a must-read historical fiction Middle Eastern and contemporary romance drama novel. The author’s thoughtful and brilliant writing style compliments the volume of history and culture that he brings into the narrative, and the mesmerizing and emotional story that rests at the heart of this novel will have readers hanging onto the author’s every word. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!
About the Author
SHARIFULLAH DORANI was born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan, and claimed asylum in the UK in 1999. He has undergraduate and master’s degrees in Law from The University of Northampton and UCL, respectively. He completed his PhD on the US War in Afghanistan at Durham University and authored the acclaimed America in Afghanistan. Sharifullah frequently returns to Afghanistan to carry out research. He is currently South Asia and the Middle Eastern Editor at The Centre for Strategic Research and Analysis (CESRAN International) and has written nearly two dozen articles on Afghanistan (and the broader region), international relations and law. He lives with his family in Bedford, England.