There are some books that you will go back to, and you can sense that while reading them. There is something about them from the first word that pulls you inside and you willingly succumb to the world the writer has created and sometimes just want to stay there. This happens to me more often than not when I read and this time it happened more so while I was reading, “The Walking” by Laleh Khadivi. The book had been lying on my shelf for a while and I was reluctant to pick it up because I had read enough about migration and felt that I would be emotionally wrought after the read, however that was not the case. I not only enjoyed the book however at some parts I was also able to relate to it.
“The Walking” is about two brothers from a small Iranian mountain village. Saladin, who has always dreamed of leaving and Ali, who has never given leaving an after-thought, have to leave their village in the wake of a political aftermath. Saladin and Ali set out for their journey, where somewhere down the line they separate and go their own ways. Saladin sets out and reaches California and his journey has just begun. From thereon, things change in the book. The writing is linear – there are narratives running throughout the book – mostly between past and the present, and that gives the reader the much required insight about the family ties and alienation in a new country.
The entire book is about migration – the physical movement of a being from one place to another. The mental and emotional ties that stay behind are explored throughout the book, which is what makes the writing so taut and wondrous. Laleh does not mince her words while saying things that the brothers have been through (and which may be true and happened to other people) and how their journey is in the book. She is candid and gives a terrific voice to her characters and their emotions. It is almost like conjuring a new world for the reader – that of migration and its sense without being too sentimental about it.
I loved the book from start to finish. The plot, the characters and the way it was written. More so, because I loved the entire political context to it and its connection with personal journeys that we undertake – maybe for freedom and sometimes the situations we find ourselves in because of it. The writing resonates for the ones left behind and what it actually means to be away from home and the land which you can call your own. A remarkable piece of work. This is the second in the trilogy, the first one being, “The Age of Orphans”. However you can read this first before reading that. It does not impact the reading experience to a large extent. For me, this was definitely one of the best reads of this month.