Crossbones (Past Imperfect #3) by Nuruddin Farah

1. First lines. 2. Published 2012 Penguin Random House, Allen & Unwin 3. Flag of Somalia [Public Domain] via flickr 4. Map of Africa [Public Domain] via Wikimedia 5. Street in Mogadishu [Public Domain] via flickr
A picture of the Somali-Ethiopian War of 2006-2009, one of the many struggles throughout Somali’s history.

Milak and Ahl are brothers with different reasons to return to their birthplace, Somalia. Milak is a journalist accompanied by his father, and Ahl is looking for his stepson Taxliil who was recruited from a local mosque in Minneapolis to join the religious war. As Ethiopia invades Somalia, the brothers and their friends encounter a variety of people in their dangerous quest to become close to the insurgents and find Taxliil.

“Is it fair to assume that every single Somali politician has a different paymaster outside this country from whom he receives instructions, and whose interest he serves?”

“Outside, pedestrians are crossing the busy street in no hurry at all, as if daring the drivers to run them over. Some of them stop in the centre, as though saying, ‘Hit me, see if I care.'”

~Quotes from “Crossbones” by Nuruddin Farah
My opinion:

In this book, there seems to be a lot of repetitive explanations about the plight of the Somalian people, and I really wanted to know more about the feelings, and motivations of Malik and Ahl, the main characters. Some of the minor characters, of which there are many, seem unnecessary to the story.

The opinion of others:
  • Independent:Crossbones is a novel of despair and dismay, but it demonstrates yet again Farah’s unwavering commitment to a people who endure.”
  • New York Times: “The real problems with this novel are inconsistent plotting, repetitiveness and a verbose third-person narrative that results in muddled psychological portraits.”… “Crossbones provides a sophisticated introduction to present-day Somalia, and to the circle of poverty and violence that continues to blight the country.”
  • Kirkus: “Gripping but utterly humane thriller set in one of the least-understood regions on earth.”
Other edition

Historical note: There is a long history of conflict between Somalia and Ethiopia. In 2006, Ethiopian troops, backed by the United States invaded Somalia where Al-Shabaab (and Islamist militant group) held much power. During the conflict, there were several suicide bombings, and much destruction. Thousands of people died, were wounded and displaced during the war. In 2009 Ethiopia withdrew after mediation, and the election of new leadership. Fighting continues, and is now a struggle between hard-line Islamists, and more moderate groups within the country.

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