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Born Under a Million Shadows: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Andrea Busfield
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
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Book Description

A moving tale of the triumph of the human spirit amidst heartbreaking tragedy, told through the eyes of a charming, impish, and wickedly observant Afghan boy

The Taliban have withdrawn from Kabul’s streets, but the long shadows of their regime remain. In his short life, eleven-year-old Fawad has known more grief than most: his father and brother have been killed, his sister has been abducted, and Fawad and his mother, Mariya, must rely on the charity of parsimonious relatives to eke out a hand-to-mouth existence.

Ever the optimist, Fawad hopes for a better life, and his dream is realized when Mariya finds a position as a housekeeper for a charismatic Western woman, Georgie, and her two foreign friends. The world of aid workers and journalists is a new one for Fawad, and living with the trio offers endless curiosities—including Georgie’s destructive relationship with the powerful Afghan warlord Haji Khan, whose exploits are legendary. Fawad grows resentful and worried, until he comes to learn that love can move a man to act in surprisingly good ways. But life, especially in Kabul, is never without peril, and the next calamity Fawad must face is so devastating that it threatens to destroy the one thing he thought he could never lose: his love for his country.

A big-hearted novel infused with crackling wit, Andrea Busfield’s brilliant debut captures the hope and humanity of the Afghan people and the foreigners who live among them.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In her indelible first novel, Busfield, a British journalist who has lived in Afghanistan, describes post-Taliban Kabul from the viewpoint of precocious, 11-year-old Fawad, whose impossible losses are commonplace: “My father was killed, my brothers are dead, and my sister is missing. But in Afghanistan, that’s a big ‘so what.’” When his mother secures a job keeping house for three foreigners, Fawad moves from their impoverished relatives’ home into the Westerners’ compound. Over the following year, the foreigners begin to feel like family to Fawad, but Busfield never romanticizes the intractable challenges of cross-cultural understanding: “In many of their ways the foreigners were just like Afghans. . . . But in other ways they were just plain crazy and trying their absolute hardest to burn for all eternity. Worse than that, they all seemed so damned pleased about it.” Fawad has a deep crush on Georgie, a beautiful NGO worker whose passionate affair with a powerful Afghan man prompts Fawad to ask the largest life questions about love, religion, friendship, and identity. Poetic, bawdy, hilarious, and achingly wise, Busfield’s debut is a love story many times over: between a man and a woman, the author and Afghanistan, and an irrepressible boy and the wild world at large. --Gillian Engberg


"In her indelible first novel, Busfield, a British journalist who has lived in Afghanistan, describes post- Taliban Kabul from the viewpoint of precocious, 11-year-old Fawad.... Poetic, bawdy, hilarious, and achingly wise, Busfield’s debut is a love story many times over: between a man and a woman, the author and Afghanistan, and an irrepressible boy and the wild world at large."—Gillian Engberg, Booklist (starred review)


"In her debut novel [Busfield] does a bang-up job of channeling an 11-year-old boy named Fawad. Born Under a Million Shadows is set in Kabul after the fall of the Taliban in late 2001. Fawad's father and brother have been killed and his sister kidnapped by the Taliban.... Fawad—ever resourceful and not above a little chicanery—makes small change by stealing from the foreigners who have flooded the city. Things might be tough for Fawad, but he's filled with an impish optimism. . . . There's much love in this gentle, buoyant tale -- romantic and otherwise. And to experience it through the eyes of a beguiling, mischievous little boy is sheer joy."—Donna Marchetti, Plain Dealer (Cleveland)  


"Andrea Busfield’s lyrical novel, Born Under a Million Shadows, chronicles the life of an impish 11-year-old boy in Kabul."—Marie Claire


"Readers who like to explore other cultures and current events through fiction will find here an intriguing picture of contemporary Afghanistan."—Library Journal


"Fawad's observations and concerns about his new experiences living with English-speaking, godless foreigners are told with humor and heartbreak. One of his primary concerns is the poignant love story involving his beloved British landlady and wealthy, yet dangerous Afghan Haji Khan. Busfield tells this story through the eyes of a child, reflecting the op...

Product Details

  • File Size: 486 KB
  • Print Length: 292 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1 edition (April 1, 2010)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00363H1TG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #327,622 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is Not Kite Runner January 6, 2010
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Although this is a novel set in Afghanistan and narrated by a young boy, this is not The Kite Runner in tone or content. Nor does it even try to be. It is a completely different novel.

Fawad, age "ten or eleven", is living in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. As the novel takes place, the country is beginning to slip back into the morass of lawlessness, so there are suicide bombings, corruption as well as death from natural causes such as a cholera outbreak. But this book is much more about life and hope. The natural optimism of a young boy shines through and is extended to the country as a whole.

Fawad is the only surviving child of his family. His father and siblings died typical Afghanistani deaths - war, Taliban and disease. He and his mother start off in the oppressive home of a maternal aunt. Fawad's mother then gets a job as live-in maid for three westerners - a heavy drinking male journalist, a lesbian engineer and Georgie, a tall idealistic Englishwoman who has fallen in love with the country and is Fawad's first crush. The author is English and fell in love with the country and stayed but who are we to imagine an autobiographical resembalnce to the near perfect Georgie?

The boy is a terrific observer. Through his eyes we see Afghanistan in all its contradictions. We also see the inherent conflict between devout (not fundamentalist) Muslims and well-meaning non-Muslim westerners. We see the on-going struggles of children to survive and the power of warlords. We see love that can result in marriage, love that can not and marriages arranged without regard to love.

All the characters are well-developed.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intimate portrait of today's Afghanistan November 15, 2009
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Life is difficult for eleven year old Fawad in Kabul. The Taliban is gone, but he still needs to work the streets to earn money to help support his mother. When his mother finds work cooking for a household of foreigners, Fawad has little idea how much his life will change. Living with the foreigners exposes Fawad to a variety of new ideas, but he remains true to his Afghan culture.

Told through young Fawad's eyes, this book provides a detailed look at life in Afghanistan in wake of the Taliban, of the struggle of the Afghan people to survive the turmoil that is today's Afghanistan. This is also a love story and a story about the collision of cultures. All of this is interpreted with great sympathy by our narrator. It is perhaps the most compelling portrait of the ongoing struggle to define a new country from the ruins caused by thirty years of conflict. In the end, this is a hopeful and optimistic look at Afghanistan and its people.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite simply -- a masterpiece! February 7, 2010
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It has been a long time since I have previously been this emotionally involved in a novel. The ability of an author to engage the reader in the lives and personalities of the novel's characters is seldom found with the level of skill found here.

Consider this: writing a novel in the first person means that the author has to inhabit the protagonist's mind and body to tell the tale. Sometimes a man will endeavor to write as a woman, and sometimes the other way round. Often the writer misses the mark. Consider now the challenge of being an adult woman writing in the personna of an 11 year old boy. Now there is not only a gender gap, but an age gap to negotiate.

That was not enough of a challenge for Andrea Busfield, however. She elected to add the complication of cross-cultural personality.

And she nails it.

This wonderful novel shows the reader daily life in Afghanistan. She carries you inside the expectations of a Muslim upbringing (being herself a British Christian). She paints with a clear brush the means of survival of the orphan children, the widows, the elderly men, and the warlords.

I savored every word of this wonderful masterpiece, and after the end of the story itself, I read the etcetera section, the Glossery, the Acknowledgements -- and then I sat for nearly half an hour cradling the book in my hands like a precious child. I literally "didn't want to put it down".
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
In Born under a Million Shadows, Andrea Busfield does several things well that make this novel work for me: First and foremost - she effectively conveys a fascination and beauty of a country which in my mind had so far been equated with images of war and burkas. Upon reading Fawad's story and those of his friends and family - I feel that I've been properly acquainted with Afghanistan now.

Busfield is a journalist who has traveled to Afghanistan and in her author's notes (in the back of the book), she writes that during her trips there, she encountered Afghan children who helped feed their families by begging from or catering to tourists and other Westerners. One little boy in particular, Fawad, was so charming and intelligent, that she decided to name her protagonist after him.

The Fawad of her book is funny, devious, very bright and certainly charmed me. Through his eyes we see what it means to be an Afghan, to possess indomitable spirit and humor in the face of much hardship.

The story as it unfolds is told from Fawad's perspective and this is where Busfield also succeeds. A strong and compelling "voice" can be hard to pull off; in this case Fawad's "voice" won me over completely.

"My name is Fawad and my mother tells me I was born under the shadow of the Taliban.

"Because she said no more, I imagined her stepping out of the sunshine and into the dark, crouching in a corner to protect the stomach that was hiding me, while a man with a stick watched over us, ready to beat me into the world."

"...All of us were born during the time of the Taliban, but I only heard my mother talk of them as men making shadows, so I guess if she'd ever learned to write she might have been a poet.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read book........
I loved this book. For me it had everything...humor, excitement, sadness, and more. Whenever I had free time I would read a few pages and at bedtime I would stay up far to long... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Babsy13
BOOK provides info about all social classes in Afghanistan (in terms of the poor, rich and the foreign workers)

Looks at a war torn beautiful Afghanistan through the... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Mr. M. H. Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent debut novel...!
This is a great debut novel from this author. I actually just finished Kahled Hosseni's latest novel - and the mountains echoed - which was also very good, and was in "Afghan"... Read more
Published 19 months ago by RSD
5.0 out of 5 stars A joyful, must-read book
I loved this book from beginning to end. Actually hesitant to read it, as I hate diving into a sad, violent pit of reality, which is a truth about Afghanistan in many ways. Read more
Published 23 months ago by annp
3.0 out of 5 stars Born Under a Million Shadows
The story is told by an 11 year old Afghanistan boy and some of his observations do not fit a boy of his age. This is more of a love story with facts about the country thrown in. Read more
Published on December 28, 2012 by KATHLEEN ELLSWORTH
5.0 out of 5 stars Afghanistan seen through the eyes of a child.
Afghanistan. Post 9/11. The Taliban have left and the bruised and battered Afghans struggle to put there lives together amidst tragedy. Read more
Published on August 27, 2011 by Laura Booksnob
5.0 out of 5 stars Born Under a Million Shadows
I thoroughly enjoyed this read- very easy to get into from the first paragraph. By the end of the sample it hard to put down as it drew me into Afghanistan life. Read more
Published on March 20, 2011 by Vickie
3.0 out of 5 stars Life in Modern Day Afghanistan
Fawad is an 11 year old boy living in Kabul after the fall of the Taliban. Having lost his father, brother and sister, he lives with his mother, Mariya, who works as a servant for... Read more
Published on January 1, 2011 by Julia Flyte
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully reveals Afghanistan to the Western world...
Fawad is a charming boy. Smart, good-humored, brave and strong, you find yourself praying that life goes well for him. Read more
Published on September 1, 2010 by nfmgirl
4.0 out of 5 stars It's no Kite Runner, but...
it's still an interesting read. If you go in comparing it to Kite Runner it will definitely fall short. Read more
Published on July 22, 2010 by Carefactor
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