Advance reader reviews of The Weight of a Mustard Seed by Wendell Steavenson.

The Weight of a Mustard Seed

The Intimate Story of an Iraqi General and His Family During Thirty Years of Tyranny

By Wendell Steavenson

The Weight of a Mustard Seed
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' rating:

  • Published in USA  Mar 2009,
    304 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

Page 2 of 2
There are currently 13 member reviews
for The Weight of a Mustard Seed
Order Reviews by:
  • Laura (Los Angeles CA)

    Looking for Answers
    Wendell Steavenson explores an age old question - why do people follow bad leaders even against their better judgment?

    She follows the career of one of Saddam's Generals interviewing his family and colleagues, using their stories to illuminate Iraq's descent into years of warfare and dictatorship.

    I was disappointed at the lack of any real analysis of how Iraq came to accept brutality as a method of governance. Her writing style seemed very unfocused and meandering at times, getting the General's story across but not really allowing us to learn much in the process.

    That being said, I would still recommend this book for anyone looking for an easy to read history of Iraq leading up to the invasion. There are plenty of other books on the subject if you're looking for a deeper social and political analysis.
  • Karen (Dedham MA)

    Mustard Seed
    I have tried several times to get "into" the book. I keep saying I want to read this book, but I find myself procrastinating. It's not a bad book, but I just didn't like the style. A lot of information about the wars between Iran and Iraq and the Americans. I guess you could call it Historical Truth. I did not finish the book.
  • Sharon (Rome GA)

    Iraq's Descent into Terror
    This book is the story of life in Iraq under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, as told by the family and friends of a general under his command.

    The general, Kamel Satchet, was a hero of the Iran-Iraq war, but later became reluctant to follow the orders of an increasingly brutal and unbalanced leader. His military career is related through interviews with his widow, his oldest daughter who was never allowed to marry, his second son who studied to be an imam, and several generals and other military men who had known and served with General Satchet. Some of these individuals were living in Iraq when the author interviewed them. She had to disguise herself as an Iraqi woman and take other precautions to avoid being kidnapped as a foreign journalist.

    I could not put this book down. It is a chilling account of the internal destruction of a country and its culture. It is a very timely topic and offers insights not seen in the usual media outlets. The stories are presented as told and the reader can draw his/her own conclusions. A glossary at the back of the book was very helpful with definitions of different political and religious factions and individuals.
  • Beverly, Palm Harbor, FL. (Palm Harbor FL)

    This book could have been so much more, if only to put a human face on our "enemies". It does give the reader a sense of how Saddam was able to make Iraq into his personal fiefdom; it did not convey to me how Gen. Sachet's turnaround "moral journey " evolved. The chronological sequence of events, told through different interviews (family, military peers) becomes very confusing. Ms Steavenson's subject remains an enigma. I would not recommend this book.
  • Marie (Warner NH)

    An Iraqi General's Dilemma
    Wendell Steavenson reveals the book's main character, Kamel Sachet, through interviews she conducted with fellow military peers, associates, friends, and family members. Sadly, death has silenced Sachet; therefore, his voice is never heard.

    Through these interviews, Sachet's personality, character, motivations, and actions are revealed. Not only is he revealed but the author also reveals aspects of Iraq, its struggles, and its people.

    Steavenson's book is not necessarily filled with new facts of Iraq under Saddam, but one which reinforces accounts of the brutality and atrocities during Saddam's reign of terror. His brutal actions affected not only those on the receiving end but also those meting out the deadly punishments. It was most interesting to read the first hand accounts of what motivated Saddam's military to comply with his orders and their regret in their complicity. In the words of Dr. Laith, a senior Iraqi army physician, "I felt the lie, but I could not say anything or they would cut my neck." He further states, "I would do my best as an officer with my duties and then I would come home and speak against the regime. All Iraqis have two characters. It was the only way to survive." Though we never hear the words from Sachet's lips, he too was torn between conflicting loyalties--the soldier's duty to his country and Saddam and his duty to his family and to his moral sense.

    For more, I recommend that you read the book.
  • Heather (Orlando FL)

    Disorganized and Poorly Written
    Though this book was ostensibly about General Kamal Sachet and his experiences as a favorite commander of Saddam Hussein, it would be more accurately described as the broader story of those men who collaborated with the dangerous whims and policies of Saddam. I thought that the book was written very sloppily and disjointedly. The story arrangement was also choppy and disorganized.
  • Page
  • 1
  • 2
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Mrs. Hemingway
    by Naomi Wood
    Naomi Wood's latest novel, Mrs. Hemingway, is a fictionalized biography covering in turn writer...
  • Book Jacket
    The Stranger on the Train
    by Abbie Taylor
    The opening chapter of Abbie Taylor's debut novel, The Stranger on the Train, took me right back to ...
  • Book Jacket
    Night Film
    by Marisha Pessl
    One of the central tenets of Hinduism states that the world as we know it is just an illusion –...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Tomlinson Hill
by Chris Tomlinson

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  162The City:
    Dean Koontz

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist


Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.