Entangled Lives

Entangled Lives

An unlikely relationship between a Pakistani boy who becomes a Taliban solider, and a female journalist covering the civil war in Afghanistan.


Raza, a poor orphan trapped in the slums of Pakistan, is sent to a strict madrassah where he meets and falls in love with Perveen. They attempt to flee the city to escape their respective fates but fail. Perveen, pregnant, is sent back to her family, and Raza is sent to Afghanistan to fight as a Taliban solider.
American journalist, Rachael Brown, travels to Afghanistan to cover the political unrest. When she meets Raza for a brief interview, she sees for the first time the true face of the Taliban: poor and desperate young men with nowhere else to go. As the war unfolds, their paths cross again, and each must decide what they owe the other.


Hard-hitting and at times often bleak , Omer gives a gripping and serious account of one set of lives all impacted by the real struggles that even now , we in the West cannot fully understand or correlate to our own experiences. We observe atrocities and struggles in tandem as new regimes rise and fall, but do not see the cost to the everyman and woman caught in the vortex of conflict. ~ Emma Reed, Screen Wipe

An emotional and at times, heartbreaking read that will keep you thinking. ~ Jill Dobbe, NetGalley

I’m glad I read this book because it gave me a perspective of a world I otherwise might not have learned much about. ~ Tiffany Huffman, Perfictionist Tiff

A thought provoking and brilliantly uncomfortable read. ~ Stephanie Jane, http://litflits.blogspot.com/2018/08/entangled-lives-by-imran-omer.html

As an immigration lawyer I have seen many cases of Afghani refugees. However this novel still made a huge impression on me. We here in Holland live nowadays a safe life and you can hardly imagine what it will be when that safety is snatched away from you or when you are never safe.. This is happening over and over again in this book. A very good novel that is no propaganda document. It is scary and very depressing. Definitely not a happy read. Although there is a happy result of goodness to look forward to.. Not a novel you will easily forget. ~ Wytzia Raspe, Dutchy's Book Reviews

Behind the inflammatory headlines lies a tragic reality The newspaper headlines only present one side of a complex story when it comes to reporting about the Taliban. The reality is heartbreaking and the author uses his narrative to explain how poor young men are cannon fodder for the war machine that feeds the extremism of the Taliban. Young boys that are orphaned or from poor families are given to the Madrasa, supposedly to be educated but the reality is that they are indoctrinated, often suffer horrific sexual abuse at the hands of the very men that are supposed to protect them and are then sent to fight for a cause that has no meaning to them. Money is exchanged in return for this steady supply of young men by the wealthy countries supporting the Taliban such as Saudi Arabia. The reality is that these young men are no more than pawns in a dirty game of war and power. This wonderful book puts into perspective exactly who the enemy is, and it is not the young man or woman forced into situations over which they have no control. The so-called enemy wearing the suicide belt or driving the truck into the crowd or planting the bomb is just another casualty of war. If only the reporters took the time to look behind the scenes and in doing so would report a very different story. The majority of news agencies seem more concerned with headlines than reporting the other side of the story. If the public was given the real story, that these young people are targeted as vulnerable youngsters and given no choice but to carry out the instructions of those that control them, there might be more understanding and empathy. Raza is the ‘face of the enemy’, a poor Pakistani boy whose life is blighted by tragedy. The local Mullah offers to take him in and educate him after he is left an orphan but this turn of events leads him to be sold to the Taliban as a soldier. Even after running away with a young girl he meets in the Madrasa he cannot escape the fate that powerful men have decided for him. The young woman is also another pawn in the game that these powerful men play and she has been promised to a much older man as his third wife and she too has no control over her destiny either. Raza is ultimately captured and imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay and this is where he meets the American journalist from his past. This past encounter serves to highlight that humanity can triumph in the worst of circumstances. It is a tragic story and the reader is compelled to examine the reality that faces so many young, destitute people the world over. The author makes it clear this is one aspect of a very complex situation but it is certainly food for thought. ~ Gillian, Breakaway Reviewers

A gem of a story--emotionally resonant while being culturally impactful. The novel isn't some forgettable social artefact but an exceptional literary work. ~ Daniel Casey, NetGalley

Thought provoking and sad, everyone should read this to understand some of the many facets that make up human conflict. Imran Omer gives us a vivid picture of a Raza, poor Pakistani orphan brought up in a corrupt madrassah. He tries to escape, but never really has a chance of a normal life and is eventually forced to fight for the Taliban. The novel starts with his meeting with Rachel an American journalist who persuades him to tell her his story, so we see the conflict in Afghanistan from both perspectives. The characterisation and the narration are so clear, I had to check to see if it was a true story. ~ Jill Burrows, NetGalley

This novel should be required reading for all westerners. Imran Omer puts a very human face on 'the Enemy' by showing us the way young boys are indoctrinated and abused then sold to the Taliban as fresh young 'soldiers' for their cause, never really knowing what they are doing, or why they are doing it. Raza, a very believable character, is raised and isolated in a Pakistani madrassah run by a fanatical and abusive Mullah, then sold across the border into Afghanistan as a Talib. The writer states in more than one place in the novel that not all madrassahs are like this and we learn something about the history/culture/poverty of the area and that there are many different cultural groups there with good and bad/extremists among them as with every other country, religion and group of people. Raza's whole life is a tragedy, from conception to imminent demise, and whatever he does in order to survive, the reader cannot help but understand and feel for the way he is treated/used and his lack of freedom to choose his own path. Even the final points, where his innate empathy and morality win through, where he and an American journalist become the 'Entangled Lives' of the title, ultimately lead to his incarceration, torture and expected death in Guantanamo Bay detention centre......yet because of this entanglement we see an exchange of mercy, kindness and empathy which gives us hope for the human race in general. Highly recommended reading, written simply but well, in a way that would be accessible to all who were willing to open their hearts and minds to the fact that a person is not necessarily 'bad because they fight for someone or something which one is against. The novel most certainly makes you think - about all soldiers and all war. ~ Beverly Coles, NetGalley

This is a well written book with excellent descriptive narrative. It gives an insight into the lives of young Arabs caught up in the conflict and also the culture of their lives. ~ Renee Glass, NetGalley

Set in the Middle East and focused about two unlikely people in the face of great odds, this novel compares to The Kite Runner and Girls of Riyadh. https://ronsamulreview.blogspot.co.uk/2018/04/entangled-lives.html ~ Rom Samul, Ron Samul Reviews

5/5 Stars. The author gives the reader an inside look at how many of the soldiers that fight for the Taliban are brainwashed and forced into obedience. The story follows Raza, a young Pakistani lad who through poverty and abandonment ends up in a strict madrasah. There he was abused and beaten for any minor misbehaviours. He sees and falls in love with Preveen, and they try unsuccessfully to escape. At 17 he's forced to go to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban. While there he meets Rachael Brown, a war correspondent, once when she interviews him and once in very different circumstances. Their lives become entwined as the title suggest. Very well written and I recommend reading it, but a word of caution, the incidents of brutality are not for the feint hearted. ~ Margaret Wilkins, NetGalley

My main reason for wanting to read this book was to understand the path to becoming a Taliban soldier. The author accomplishes this, and it’s not a happy road to follow. I found this a very interesting and compelling book about a subject that I’m trying to give a face to. ~ Catherine Thomas , NetGAlley

An emotional read that will keep you thinking and rightly so. The conflicts involving countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan are what we only see and get the view point from the media. We never learn about where the hate comes from and why. Raza, one of the main characters in this story grew up in a madrasa in Pakistan after his mother left. Were the boys at the madrasa were treated badly and became dollars per head to go fight for the Taliban. Most of which didn't understand the war and were hopelessness turned into hate. But not hate targeted towards one individual but a hate in general. Imran Omer's voice is important for us to listen to so that we can truly understand and fight against it. ~ Jude Rabot, NetGalley

A gripping fictional story that could easily be a real account of what happens to survivors of the onslaught of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Told by a reporter who goes to Afghanistan to interview a Taliban soldier captured by American forces, the soldier relays the story of his life while being left behind by his mother, growing up in a madrasa, and losing his child and the woman he loved. An emotional and at times, heartbreaking read that will keep you thinking. ~ Jill Dobbe , Goodreads

Kudos to Imran Omer – he has the audacity to take the perspective of a Taliban fighter (of course not to absolve him from his crimes, but to shine a light on his perceptions) and to confront Western readers with the historic realities of people living in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Most people in the West (me included) do not know enough about these regions, although some local conflicts have been prompted and shaped by Western politics. Just as Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (in which Kashmir plays an important role), “Entangled Lives” immerses its readers in these conflicts and shows how they affect families over generations........All in all, books like this are extremely important, because they shine a light on historic conflicts Westerners usually don’t know much about (or were you familiar with the recent history of Pakistan?). There is a risk that we grow numb towards the destiny of the people who live in these regions, a destiny that we do not understand because we only see televised bits of it, and Omer is one of the voices who fight against this. ~ Meike, Goodreads

Imran Omer does an amazing job of creating a novel that is both historical (including recent history) fiction and fact, delving deep into the history of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, into conflicts, blurry borders, cultural clashes, religion and the differing of beliefs within the same religion, and humanity. You learn a lot about the history of the three countries in Entangled Lives, most of which you won’t really know about unless you have studied the region in some depth. There was so much I appreciated about this book, alongside the story itself. I really appreciated the insight into feminism in the Afghani context, something that white feminism has a lot to learn from. This book may have been written by a man, but there are some very pertinent points brought up that cannot be ignored when it comes to women and feminism in the Middle East, and the way occidental feminism can often be dismissive of Middle Eastern women. I also deeply appreciated the characters and their humanness, something that it might be hard to see in a member of the Taliban at a first glance. And also I appreciated that there were no excuses made for certain events and happenings, but that the narrative provides insight into how nothing is ever cut and dry, especially when it comes to war, poverty, and choices. ~ Jade Hughes, http://www.jadeannahughes.com/book-reviews/2018/7/13/entangled-lives-imran-omer

Emotional and heart breaking in equal measures. ~ Kiren Parmar, NetGalley

It’s always satisfying when someone does what they say they will do and Roubndfire have done it with this novel. Their claim that. “Put simply we publish great stories” rings true with this work from Imran Omer. His insightful probe into the inner thoughts and beliefs of the Taliban were both informative and alarming and the world is a better place now that they are gone. Imran blend of cultures, Eastern and Western is seamless and convincing and his character development is well rounded. This is a novel that leaves more questions than it answers and, to my taste, that is exactly how it should be. Wanting more. ~ Brian Jeffery, NetGalley

I was drawn to this book because I know that I am sadly lacking in knowledge about the rise to power of the Taliban; conflicts in Pakistan and Afghanistan; and the reality of what this means to the various sections of society in these regions. I was not disappointed; shocked, angered, yes, but disappointed? No. Imran Omer has, with his beautifully written book, has filled in some of the gaps. There are several strands to the plot. The orphan Pakistani boy, Raza, was placed in a Madrasa to be cared for and educated; in reality he (like the others) was in fact indoctrinated, sexually abused. Raza fell in love with Parveen, a girl in the Madrasa and they ran away together. Later both were captured; Raza returned to the mullah to be sold to the Taliban to boost their army, whilst she was taken away, held captive, raped and trapped. Raza later learned that she was pregnant. Raza as a soldier for the Taliban in Afghanistan meets Rachel an American investigative journalist and the plot unfolds from their perspective and from Parveen’s mother’s perspective. This is sometimes confusing. At times the language is quite lyrical which tends to make the atrocities we witness more shocking. The suffering and indignities that these poor people endure; the hopelessness; the sheer lack of dignity, consideration – they are all dispensable and disposable. Murder on a grand scale. I am glad I read this book. I did learn more about the different cultures but I am afraid that I still lack any comprehension. I am left saddened and bewildered. ~ Margaret Duke-Wyer , NetGalley

A fascinating book, told from two viewpoints - that of an American journalist and that of a reluctant jihadist who is drawn into the Afghan conflict. The book details the appalling circumstances of the young boy who is abandoned and ends up in a madrassah, which sets him on the path to fighting for the Taliban despite all his efforts to avoid it. The paths of the two protagonists are, as the title says, 'entangled' throughout the story. Despite the rather abrupt ending, this book is definitely worth reading. ~ Katharine Lang , NetGalley

With his brilliant novel Entangled Lives, Imran Omer puts a human face on a subject otherwise overwhelmed by propaganda on all sides. In a story as exciting as it is important, as sad as it is hopeful, we can begin to understand the all too human personal tragedies behind a generation of war. ~ Philip Athans, bestselling author

Entangled Lives ignites a fire of curiosity about Omer’s intimately portrayed characters, believably real people in the cultures we read so much about, yet about whom we understand so little. The shifts in narrator conveys the author’s amazing capacity to delve into the mind of a man or woman, entwined in the web of war, unravelling the fear, love, and passion we can grasp universally. A MUST read. ~ Liese Ricketts, photographer and educator.

Imran Omer
Imran Omer Imran was born in Karachi and studied in Karachi and Chicago. A graduate of the University of Illinois and American College of Education, Im...
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