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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Places In Between by Rory Stewart

A Scotsman, a mastiff and a feudal nation

Published by Mariner Books in 2006.

When the United States first invaded Afghanistan one of my friends wondered aloud if we intended on keeping it as a colony. I quipped that we already owned a mountainous desert area full of people that have a religion that we don't understand - we call it Utah (with apologies to my Mormon friends out there).

Rory Stewart
After reading The Places In Between I truly realize the depth of our misunderstanding of the situation in Afghanistan. I keep up on the news better than most. I've spoken with veterans who have returned from Afghanistan. Yet, as I read Stewart's account of his walk across Afghanistan just weeks after the fall of the Taliban, I realized that this truly is a foreign culture - as alien to me as any on the planet. I am amazed that the mission in Afghanistan has been as successful as it has been.

Stewart introduces us to the variety of cultures that Afghanistan possesses. He also makes us see that the very concept of an "Afghanistan" is nebulous at best. His commentaries on the United Nations are biting and ring of truth. While the news has commented that Afghanistan is a feudal society, I always took their word "feudal" to be code for technologically backward. Stewart experienced that it truly and literally is feudal and for some parts of Afghanistan, life is like stepping into a time machine and going back in time to the Middle Ages - both politically and technologically.

Stewart's book is a joy to read. While I wonder at the sense in walking by yourself across a war-torn nation during the dead of winter (with the exception of some companions who were forced upon him by concerned governments from time to time and an adopted mastiff dog he picked up along the way), I am pleased that he did. His impressions of what he witnessed and experienced were wonderfully conveyed. Stewart is truly a gifted writer.

This book is truly a wonderful experience. I cannot recommend it highly enough. What a great read to finish up the year with!

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: The Places In Between

Reviewed on December 31, 2006.

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