Book Reviews

Book Review: Under an Afgan Sky.

Mellissa Fung, a CBC journalist, on assignment in Afghanistan, was captured in broad daylight by a few daring Afghans, from a refugee camp, while interviewing a family. During her capture, she tried to resist, being pushed into a car. It was at this time she was stabbed in the shoulder.

Her “fixer” (aka translator and organizer), and cameraman were with her, but could not help her.

After several hours of travelling in the car, then on a motorcycle, followed up by a long walk, she was told to get into a hole. When she refused, she was thrown into the hole. The hole was dug in preparation to keep kidnapped foreigners until ransom money was received.

Such incidences happened before and undoubtedly will continue to take place, simply because Afghan authorities (at least at lower levels of the government) are either unwilling or unable to enforce the law. It is an environment of lawlessness and corruption.

She endured 28 days of captivity surviving on extra sweet cookies and juice.

Needless to say, there were no sanitary facilities except for a plastic bucket that was occasionally emptied.

The memoir describes vividly her emotions, how she passed the time while in captivity. Her heath started to deteriorate due to the poor diet, and stabbing wounds healed very slowly.

She wrote letters to her close friend and a companion. In the book, his letters to her immortalized in his diaries are juxtaposed to hers chronologically. Her captors, some of whom were sympathetic to her, claimed that they were obeying the orders of the overall organizer, and provided her with a few home-cooked meals.

This is an amazing memoir of courage, strength, and resilience to remain calm and collected during a gruelling four-week-long captivity under the most primitive and inhumane conditions imaginable. Her writing is both compelling and deeply moving.

Although Mellissa Fung is not an overly religious Catholic, she carries her rosary at all times ad it came in handy during this ordeal

The author also draws upon human emotions and differing belief systems.

The narrative makes it abundantly clear that Afghan clergy “brainwashed” the population, and the poorly educated or possibly ignorant population completely believes what is being told them.

While reading this memoir, one may experience pain and anguish, but will understand better under what circumstances journalists “produce” news, how they are edited and diffused to the public at large.

This is a story of hope, strength, courage in the face of adversity, and despair. It is also a reminder to all who live in true democracies how lucky they are.

A spellbinding narrative that deserve to grace the library of every home.

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