This is a wonderful book, easy to get into and hard to put down. The news we hear of Afghanistan, full of military operations, casualties, opium harvests and fraudulent elections, makes it hard to imagine growing up there. Andrea Busfield achieves this on our behalf. Her narrator an eleven - or perhaps twelve - year old boy opens with: "My name is Fawad and my mother tells me I was born under the shadow of the Taliban."
Taking this literally he thinks of her, `stepping out of the sunshine and into the dark', and this child's way of seeing the puzzling world around him sets the tone. We encounter the horrors and hardships through his innocent eyes and although he speaks of his fear and his sadness there is also humour and joy.
At the start of the book Fawad's father and brother have been killed, his sister abducted and their home burnt down. They live without welcome or comfort with his aunt and young cousins who beg from and hustle foreigners. Life improves overnight when Farad's mother gets a position as housekeeper to three foreigners living in a wealthy suburb of Kabul. Georgie, James and May are all trying to improve life for local people while sorting out their own problems and destinies, struggles viewed by Fawad with a wonderful mixture of sympathy, insight and perplexity.
Fawad is a Muslim and it is one of the strengths of this book that it portrays the acceptance of his own religion and a respect for the cultural Christianity of his employers as a fact of everyday life.
Although life is briefly peaceful after the move things don't stand still and the story unfolds with drama and tragedy but enough of a happy ending to leave the reader feeling uplifted and hopeful.