Knopf Canada|June 5, 2012|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-307-40223-3
In this powerful novel set in contemporary Kandahar, an Afghan woman approaches an American military base to demand the return of her brother’s body.
At a stark outpost in the Kandahar mountain range, a team of American soldiers watches a young Afghan woman approach. She has come to beg for the return of her brother’s body. The camp’s tense, claustrophobic atmosphere comes to a boil as the men argue about what to do next. Taking its cue from the Antigone myth, this significant, eloquent novel re-creates the chaos, intensity, and immediacy of war, and conveys the inevitable repercussions felt by the soldiers and their families – especially one sister.
A woman who has lost both of her legs in an air attack on her village wheels herself on a little cart many, many miles to an American Army base in Kandahar. She stops outside and begins to communicate with the soldiers inside by yelling back and forth. She tells them that she has come to claim the body of her brother so she can give him a proper burial that she feels he so rightly deserves. The soldiers on the army base don’t trust her and think she may be harbouring a bomb in her small cart. At night, under cover of darkness, they turn on spot lights to keep an eye on her. Is retrieving her brother’s body the real reason she has come?
The story weaves in other stories of the soldiers on the base with a realistic depiction of the language and behaviour of the soldiers. All of the soldiers are trying to decide what this woman’s real intent is.
The Watch gives us non-military folk first-hand experience about what war zones are really like. I now have a better understanding why a lot of these soldiers return home changed people. Overall, this was an excellent and eye-opening read.