Beth (Sioux Falls SD)
This non-fiction book by esteemed Journalist, Wendell Steavenson, is immensely interesting. She has gone into Iraq and picked an individual - General Kamel Sachet - to illustrate the fascinating and terrible ways in which the wars in Iraq over the past 30 have affected real people. Sachet was a career soldier, a hero of the Iran-Iraq War, part of the Iraqi invasion force in Kuwait, a one-time favorite of Saddam and finally an honorable man who was executed by those in charge for his incorruptibility.
The book details the kind of life his family led - the author being a somewhat frequent guest in their home. It also goes into the psychological impact that so much war, so much terror and violence has on a society.
It is fascinating and horrific. I would recommend it for anyone who is interested in the Iraqi version (or versions) of what has been happening there since the rise and now the fall of the Saddam regime.
Patricia (Fallbrook CA)
Thr Weight of a Mustard Seed by Wendell Steavenson
This is a very sad book, no happy endings here, but all Americans, and Brits, who have ever expressed an opinion about the situation in Iraq, should definitely read it. It is not a political book, no editorializing here, just a detailed history of the country through the Saddam Hussein years, with particular attention to the career and family of one man, General Kamel Sachet. It is the story of his rise in the military, his patriotism and honor, and how he increasingly turned to religion as time progressed. Saddam's brutalities are not glossed over, Gen.Sachet was appalled by them, but he had to deal with the regime in the only way he knew that would protect his family.
Wonderful descriptions - "American tanks squatted like great toads amid the wasteland trash."
My only disappointment, no pictures! Only descriptions of the photographs, in the spaces where presumably they will appear in the final edition (I read an advanced readers copy). I would have loved to see his wife in her early years, glamorous in western dress, before she chose to switch to Islamic clothing. And all the family in the very early days of Saddam Hussein, when life was good.
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.
Muneeb (St Louis MO)
I recommend this book to all who are interested in world history. Steavenson uses her skills as a journalist and historian to tell the story of an Iraqi general, his family, and the people and the land behind the headlines.
Wendy (Riverside CA)
A Relevant and Worthwhile Read
The Weight of a Mustard Seed by Wendell Steavenson is relevant to the times, informative, and thought provoking. Although the author sets out to tell the story of General Kamel Sachet, there are many stories within the novel about individuals, some powerful and some with no power at all, sharing their experiences and life stories. The book spans over several years, marking much of Saddam Hussein's reign over Iraq. It offers insight into a people and country that have been in turmoil for many years, those that have had to adapt and reinvent themselves repeatedly in an effort to survive despite the odds.
Beatrice G. (Floral Park NY)
The Weight of a Mustard Seed by Wendell Stevenson
A very different view of Iraq. The intrigues, machinations and complications described read like a work of fiction, not the non-fiction it actually is. a bit difficult to keep track of the plots, sub-plots, family and tribal names. Fortunately the author has provided a description of the large cast of characters as well as a glossary of the religious and security terminology pertinent to the story.
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.