In the Sea There are Crocodiles

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


In the Sea There are Crocodiles
Based on the True Story of Enaiatollah Akbari
by Fabio Geda
★★★

With the help of his mother Enaiatollah Akbari leaves Afghanistan when the Taliban takes power in 2000. At only 10 years old he escaped to Pakistan, traveling alone and trying to find work. His journey takes him through Iran, Turkey, Greece and finally to Italy.

The story is considered fiction, but just like Dave Egger’s What is the What it’s a retelling of a true story based on someone’s memories. It reminded me a lot of Egger’s book, but it wasn’t quite as good. The story is told from Akbari’s point of view so it’s very straightforward and simple in the way a child would speak.

There are occasional questions from the author sprinkled throughout the narrative. I found this very distracting. In the middle of hearing about some terrible event we pause while the author says something like, “Tell us more about that” or “Were you scared when that happened?” The questions always seemed to come out of nowhere and they really took me out of the flow of the journey.

Despite the shaky structural elements, Akbari’s struggle to escape to freedom was an amazing one and I was glad to learn more about that part of the world.

BOTTOM LINE: Read it if you’re interested in Afghanistan and learning more about the struggles the Taliban’s rule have caused. If you really enjoyed The Kite Runner or What is the What you’ll probably like this one too.


AUDIO PRODUCTION: The unabridged book makes for a quick listen but the narrator, Mir Weiss Najibi, didn't work for me. The tone of his voice, his pacing, it felt all wrong. I wish I'd read a print version of this one.


11 comments:

Sandy Nawrot said...

I have What is the What on my shelves but have never gotten around to reading it. I need a reading clone. I get where you are coming from on this one, although the story itself is one I'm interested in. I just read an amazing graphic novel/photo essay called The Photographer, about a Doctors Without Borders mission in Afghanistan. It is really eye-opening.

Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said...

Those covers alone would make me want to read it - they're lovely.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - I really liked What is the What, but I'm an Eggers fan. I know he doesn't work for some people. I do love learning about things going on in other parts of the world.

Alex - Aren't those great! The middle one is my favorite.

Biblibio said...

It seems you had a similar reaction to mine, except that I was even more annoyed by the structure and the approach of "only the story matters". It was frustrating viewing this objectively fascinating story through the eyes of someone who didn't appreciate the surrounding... a very strange experience.

I too preferred What is the What, though I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's something in the way that Egger's book worked reasonably well as a novel, whereas In the Sea there are Crocodiles was awkwardly written as a work of fiction...

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Biblibio - I'm glad I'm not alone and I agree about the "objectivity" part. It came across so cold and distant.

Christina said...

Something about the cover makes me think of Life of Pi. I agree with Alex, the covers are lovely.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Christina - There were some elements that reminded me of that book too!

Mir Waiss Najibi said...

Hi Melissa, this is Mir Waiss Najibi and I just wanted to say thank you for the book review on ITSTAC. I'm sorry to hear that my audio did not work for you but I do appreciate the feedback. :)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Mir Waiss Najibi - Thanks for stopping by! I think everyone has different tastes, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

Carol Weaver said...

Although it took some time to get used to it, I think the narrator made for what it would be like to listen to someone to whom English is not their first language. For that reason, I felt like it was the subject of the story speaking to me. It did some time to get used to it, but I loved it all the same by the end.

I am friends with a Hazara who daily writes me about what it happening in her country. She doesn't even know about this book! I had read about it on Wikipedia when I was reading about the persecution of Hazara by Afghanistan. It really helped me to see her plight more vividly.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Carol - How fascinating! I can't imagine being in her situation.