Summary and book reviews of The Opium Prince by Jasmine Aimaq

The Opium Prince

by Jasmine Aimaq

The Opium Prince by Jasmine Aimaq X
The Opium Prince by Jasmine Aimaq
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Dec 2020, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 4, 2022, 0 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Daniela Schofield
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About this Book

Book Summary

Jasmine Aimaq's stunning debut explores Afghanistan on the eve of a violent revolution and the far-reaching consequences of a young Kochi girl's tragic death.

Afghanistan, 1970s. Born to an American mother and a late Afghan war hero, Daniel Sajadi has spent his life navigating a complex identity. After years in Los Angeles, he is returning home to Kabul at the helm of a US foreign aid agency dedicated to eradicating the poppy fields that feed the world's opiate addiction.

But on the drive out of Kabul for an anniversary trip with his wife, Daniel accidentally hits and kills a young Kochi girl named Telaya. He is let off with a nominal fine, in part because nomad tribes are ignored in the eyes of the law, but also because a mysterious witness named Taj Maleki intercedes on his behalf. Wracked with guilt and visions of Telaya, Daniel begins to unravel, running from his crumbling marriage and escalating threats from Taj, who turns out to be a powerful opium khan willing to go to extremes to save his poppies.

This groundbreaking literary thriller reveals the invisible lines between criminal enterprises and political regimes—and one man's search for meaning at the heart of a violent revolution.

PROLOGUE

The girl lies crumpled and still in the road, like a thing thrown away. It cannot be that I am the one who has done this to her. Just a moment ago, she ran across the road, lively, smiling, and quick. Beside me, my wife is screaming. I cannot move, but I do, my hands heavy as I take them from the steering wheel and step into the desolate road. My legs protest, but I walk. I fall to my knees and take the girl's hand. A small whimper. She is alive.

"Please, don't move. You're going to be all right." My voice breaks, sounding alien, each word between a quiver and a sob. The girl's limbs are tangled, her head tilted at an impossible angle. A bruise blackens her neck. Her red dress grows darker, blood blooming through the cotton, which rises in the breeze and settles back onto her body a shroud.

The endless desert, the Afghan sun, the silent sky. They watch. The road is the only thing in motion. The asphalt ripples in the heat, as if ready to open up and engulf us, making the ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Aimaq fictionalizes America's entanglement in Afghanistan with reference or allusion to historical events and players. She does so in a manner that depicts the stark inequality and poverty in the country as well as the politically expedient nature of US foreign policy. Throughout most of the book, Aimaq employs a third-person point of view that provides insight into the duality of Daniel's American and Afghani perspectives. This approach is also effective in relating the unspoken sentiments and past experiences that give depth to the characters and infuse their relationships with dramatic tension...continued

Full Review Members Only (756 words).

(Reviewed by Daniela Schofield).

Media Reviews

CrimeReads
[A] novel of soft power and shadowy machinations...Jasmine Aimaq has crafted a powerful critique of criminal empires, large and small.

Washington Post
The story begins in 1970, when an American diplomat, posted to Afghanistan, accidentally hits a young girl with his car. The girl’s death becomes blackmail leverage for a local kingpin, and as the drug lord and diplomat tangle, Aimaq — who, like her protagonist, grew up in Afghanistan — shows that country’s complicated history in a pulse-pounding thriller.

Christian Science Monitor
A captivating work of fiction that examines how its two protagonists move from guilt and despair to redemption...The main substance of the story centers around Taj’s attempts to manipulate and profit from Daniel’s deep guilt over the accident. Add to this a troubled marriage, jealousy over real or imagined past affairs, and an unflinching look at all the strata of Afghan society and you have a story that holds the reader’s attention...Readers will come away with a deeper understanding of the land and its inhabitants, and will also have reason to anticipate [Aimaq's] next literary effort.

Shelf Awareness
In her extraordinary fiction debut, The Opium Prince, Afghan Swedish academic and communications expert Jasmine Aimaq, who lives in Canada, combines elements of literary thriller, sociopolitical exposé and historical witnessing...Aimaq deftly confronts foreign aid, global drugs, foreign privilege, cultural entitlement, family loyalty and legacy, against the backdrop of two strangers whose future becomes inextricably, horrifically entangled. Who triumphs—or even just survives—is never guaranteed.

Publishers Weekly
[S]tellar...Though she has altered some historical details to fit the narrative, [Aimaq's] observations provide astonishing context to contemporary global issues such as Islamic extremism and the international heroin trade. Fans of Lauren Wilkinson's Cold War thriller American Spy won't want to miss this one.

Kirkus Reviews
An ambitious debut defying easy categorization.

Booklist (starred review)
Offering a piercing look at the Afghan view of foreign aid and patriarchal foreigners, Aimaq...is a writer to watch. Every carefully described detail here will stay with readers as they examine what they thought they knew about America's exporting of democracy and its war on drugs. For its worlds-within-worlds quality, give this to David Mitchell fans; it's also a great choice for book clubs.

Author Blurb Graham Fuller, former CIA Station Chief in Kabul and author of A World Without Islam
A gripping story that delves into the 'real Afghanistan' that lies behind the headlines. Jasmine Aimaq brings deep personal and family knowledge of Afghanistan to bear on the full panoply of actors in the tragedy of Afghanistan: US shortsightedness, determined Islamists, family bonds, and Afghan moderates trying to find an in-between. Deeply informed, beautifully written, vivid characters, with a real feel for this complex culture and geopolitical agony from competing perspectives. A stunning debut literary novel.

Author Blurb Cara Black, New York Times bestselling author of the Aimée Leduc series and Three Hours in Paris
The Opium Prince is an evocative, overdue tale of Afghanistan, written with searing insight by Jasmine Aimaq. Against the backdrop of 1970s Kabul, Aimaq sets an edgy cat-and-mouse game between a half-Afghan US government official and an opium khan, threaded together by the hard beauty of the country's land and people. I couldn't put it down.

Author Blurb Chaya Deitsch, author of Here and There: Leaving Hasidism and Keeping My Family
I love this book. Daniel Sajadi is a complicated protagonist: an idealist, a loving husband, and the burdened son of a hero, so driven by his goals that he's blind to the consequences of his actions, yet we never stop rooting for him. Jasmine Aimaq's writing is gorgeous, creating a fully immersive universe—the sights, sounds and smells of city versus desert; the fields of poppies; and the Russian tanks and cigarette smoke of an Afghanistan unlike the one most Americans know. A cinematic yet introspective page-turner.

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Beyond the Book

American Intervention and Counter-Narcotic Efforts in Afghanistan

The events of Jasmine Aimaq's debut novel, The Opium Prince, play out in the lead-up to the 1978 Saur Revolution, in which the Afghan president Mohammed Daud Khan was assassinated and overthrown by the Soviet-backed Marxist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (the PDPA). The president had himself come to power in 1973 by overthrowing the monarch Mohammed Zahir Shah with the backing of the PDPA but had eventually grown wary of the party's Soviet influence.

Between these two revolutionary events, Aimaq's protagonist, Daniel Sajadi, is in Afghanistan as the director of an American agency that aims to fight the cultivation of opium by encouraging and aiding the cultivation of food crops. While the agency, USADE, is fictional, its ...

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