Summary and book reviews of A Fort of Nine Towers by Qais Akbar Omar

A Fort of Nine Towers

An Afghan Family Story

by Qais Akbar Omar

A Fort of Nine Towers by Qais Akbar Omar X
A Fort of Nine Towers by Qais Akbar Omar
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2013, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2014, 416 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

With all the emotional power of The Kite Runner, this is the very first true life account of growing up in Afghanistan, by a writer who still lives in Kabul.

For the young Qais Akbar Omar, Kabul was a city of gardens where he flew kites from his grandfather's roof with his cousin Wakeel while their parents, uncles, and aunts drank tea around a cloth spread in the grass. It was a time of telling stories, reciting poetry, selling carpets, and arranging marriages.Then civil war exploded. Their neighborhood found itself on the front line of a conflict that grew more savage by the day.

With rockets falling around them, Omar's family fled, leaving behind everything they owned to take shelter in an old fort—only a few miles distant and yet a world away from the gunfire. As the violence escalated, Omar's father decided he must take his children out of the country to safety. On their perilous journey, they camped in caves behind the colossal Buddha statues in Bamyan, and took refuge with nomad cousins, herding their camels and sheep. While his father desperately sought smugglers to take them over the border, Omar grew up on the road, and met a deaf-mute carpet weaver who would show him his life's purpose.

Later, as the Mujahedin war devolved into Taliban madness, Omar learned about quiet resistance. He survived a brutal and arbitrary imprisonment, and, at eighteen, opened a secret carpet factory to provide work for neighborhood girls, who were forbidden to go to school or even to leave their homes. As they tied knots at their looms, Omar's parents taught them literature and science.

In this stunning coming-of-age memoir, Omar recounts terrifyingly narrow escapes and absurdist adventures, as well as moments of intense joy and beauty. Infected with folktales, steeped in poetry, A Fort of Nine Towers is a life-affirming triumph.

1

In the Time Before
In the time before the fighting, before the rockets, before the warlords and their false promises, before the sudden disappearance of so many people we knew to graves or foreign lands, before the Taliban and their madness, before the smell of death hung daily in the air and the ground was soaked in blood, we lived well.

*   *   *

We have no photos. It was too dangerous to keep them during the time of the Taliban, so we destroyed them. But the images of our lives before all hope fled Afghanistan remain sharp and clear.

My mother is wearing her short skirt, sitting in her office in a bank, tending to a long line of customers. She is respected for her knowledge of banking, and her ability to solve people's problems.

My father looks like a movie star in his bell-bottom trousers, speeding through the Kabul streets on his motorcycle. Sometimes he ties me to his back with a tight belt. His long hair catches the wind as we ride off. ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

A Fort of Nine Towers provides valuable insight into Afghani life and recent history from a native's perspective. I really felt I learned something from the author's account, and I think anyone with an interest in what has been going on in Afghanistan over the past 20 years, would do well to pick up a copy.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Full Review (970 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

Media Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
Mind-boggling . . . a riveting story of war as seen through a child’s eyes and summoned from an adult’s memory.

O, The Oprah Magazine
If you read only one book this summer, make it this one. It’s an astonishing tale of religious barbarians and human hope, of what happened to Kabul before and after the Taliban came to power.

The Washington Post
Beautifully written, with the pacing and suspense of a novel ... his richly detailed account of growing up in Afghanistan under the warlords and then the Taliban is deeply fulfilling, remarkable not least because he lived to tell the tale.

The Boston Globe
A Fort of Nine Towers captures a time and a place unknown to most Americans . . . graphic, certainly, but it’s also sweet and funny and inspiring.

The Times (UK)
Qais Akbar Omar’s memoir sets out . . . to show us the ordinary Afghanistan as well as the horror . . . Yet for all the horrors he has seen and the loved ones he has lost, there is no desire for vengeance in this account, only a profound stoicism.

Evening Standard (UK)
Foreigners rarely penetrate the rich cultural depths of Afghanistan. Here at last is a powerful, haunting memoir that does justice to its tough, tenacious and astonishingly good-humoured people. The best thing about it . . . is that it is a book about Afghanistan written by an Afghan.

Sunday Times (UK)
Omar’s beautifully written book is an affecting account of survival in the midst of brutality and fear, and a testament to the importance of family and friendships in a place where neighbours turned on neighbours.

Publishers Weekly
Omar's tale strains credulity, but his prose is deliciously forthright, extravagant, somewhat mischievous, and very Afghan in its sense of long-suffering endurance and also reconciliation.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. As lyrical as it is haunting, this mesmerizing, not-to-be-missed debut memoir is also a loving evocation of a misunderstood land and people... A gorgeously rich tapestry of an amazing life and culture.

Author Blurb Eliza Griswold, author of the New York Times bestseller The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam
This book is essential reading for anyone eager to learn what more than three decades of war have cost the Afghan people.

Author Blurb Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya, author of The Watch and The Storyteller of Marrakesh
At a time when Afghanistan threatens to recede into a bloody and debased footnote, Qais Akbar Omar reminds us of the honor and courage of his people.  A remarkable feat of memory and imagination.

Author Blurb G. Willow Wilson, author of Alif the Unseen
In this stark, unflinching memoir, Qais Akbar Omar illuminates the beauty and tragedy of a country pushed to the brink by war. A Fort of Nine Towers gives voice to the unbreakable spirit of the Afghan people.

Reader Reviews

Laurie

fascinating
I loved this book. Be warned, it has some absolutely horrific occurrences, but overall it is a heartwarming story of people sticking together and supporting each other in the most trying conditions. The book gives good insight into what it was like...   Read More

Melinda

A Fort of Nine Towers
“I have long carried this load of griefs in the cage of my heart. Now I have given them to you. I hope you are strong enough to hold them.” Qais Akbar Omar Qasis shares his unforgettable story of a simple loving family and a country in endless ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Afghanistan: Parsing the Players

Westerners often hear news reports of groups known as the Mujahideen, the Taliban, and Al-Qaeda. It can be easy to confuse or merge them in one's thinking, but they are of course separate organizations with differing histories, goals and characteristics.

The Mujahideen
The Mujahideen (singular mujahid) comes from the word jihad, which means, "struggle." First referenced in the Quran, a mujahid is a Muslim who struggles in the path of Allah. Over time this has taken on the connotation of being one who proclaims himself a warrior for the faith, or someone who is a freedom fighter struggling to liberate his land from non-Muslim influence, sometimes by violent means. The term is currently used rather freely, often to describe any Muslim ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked A Fort of Nine Towers, try these:

  • The Pianist from Syria jacket

    The Pianist from Syria

    by Aeham Ahmad

    Published 2020

    About this book

    An astonishing but true account of a pianist's escape from war-torn Syria to Germany offers a deeply personal perspective on the most devastating refugee crisis of this century.

  • I Was Told to Come Alone jacket

    I Was Told to Come Alone

    by Souad Mekhennet

    Published 2018

    About this book

    "I was told to come alone. I was not to carry any identification, and would have to leave my cell phone, audio recorder, watch, and purse at my hotel..."

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Everything Inside
    Everything Inside
    by Edwidge Danticat
    Edwidge Danticat is a Haitian-American writer, and Haiti looms large as a presence in this ...
  • Book Jacket: The Beekeeper of Aleppo
    The Beekeeper of Aleppo
    by Christy Lefteri
    In Christy Lefteri's sophomore novel, The Beekeeper of Aleppo, the author introduces readers to ...
  • Book Jacket: Marilou Is Everywhere
    Marilou Is Everywhere
    by Sarah Elaine Smith
    "The point is that at that moment in my life," writes the narrator of Sarah Elaine Smith's debut ...
  • Book Jacket: Let's Call It a Doomsday
    Let's Call It a Doomsday
    by Katie Henry
    However the world will end, Ellis Kimball is ready for it. Her obsessive stash of survivalist ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Secrets We Kept
    by Lara Prescott

    Reese Witherspoon's Sept Book Club Pick!
    "This is the rare page-turner with prose that’s as wily as its plot."—EW
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Motherhood So White
    by Nefertiti Austin

    A heartwarming memoir of motherhood and adoption told through an African American lens.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
by Kim Michele Richardson

A story of raw courage, fierce strength, and one woman's belief that books can carry us anywhere.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Chase Darkness with Me

How One True-Crime Writer Started Solving Murders

Have you ever wanted to solve a murder? Gather the clues the police overlooked? Put together the pieces? Identify the suspect?

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

S S A C A Big S

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

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

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.