This book kept me riveted from the first page, and I had a hard time putting it down in spite of a blazingly busy few days. I found that I couldn’t stop thinking about Aryan and Kabir, and what they endured as they made their way across the world to their promised land — England. And now, a few days later, I still can’t stop thinking about it!
Hinterland is the odyssey of two Afghani brothers, orphaned by war, one about 14 and one 8, who are traveling alone across Europe in a desperate attempt to reach England, where they believe they will be able to live in peace and go to school. Aryan, the elder is one of the most steadfast characters I’ve encountered in literature; he battles through his own internal demons and what is probably PTSD, to care for and encourage his little brother Kabir as they make their long and difficult way across the continent.
Some of the scenes are horrific, certainly, but mostly it was the tenuousness of their survival and the boy’s courage and optimism that makes this an unforgettable book. But in spite of the boys’ love for each other and their resilience, it is the perpetual the failure of the international community to help these children and the thousands like them that was most stunning. Of course, there were people along the way who were kind — mostly in small ways; but there was also a smorgasbord of predators of various ilk who preyed upon these children at every turn. By the end, they felt like they could have been my own brothers. I suppose they are.
Hinterland belongs in a group with Little Bee and the Blue Notebook in how it points out the plight of children in unfamiliar parts of the world, but it also stands as a great, suspenseful read, one of those universal stories of tremendous courage against insurmountable odds that speaks to something fundamental in all of us; and I, for one, will never be the same after spending the weekend in the Hinterland. As the review line on the cover of the book says, this is a story that all of us should read!
reviewed by Annie Leonard