Terri's Reviews > Thunder Over Kandahar

Thunder Over Kandahar by Sharon E. McKay
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Jul 12, 11


"Thunder Over Kandahar" is often recommended in reviews to be used in Social Studies classes to teach current events. For those who might find "A Thousand Splendid Suns" or "The Kite Runner" too long, too intense, too violent, "Thunder Over Kandahar" might be a more appropriate choice. The 247 page book, though not strong in the writing department, is a fast read, features a compelling story, and includes much important information on the history of Afghanistan and the current situation there (including a timeline and a glossary of terminology used), as well as placing focus on the important issue of the treatment of women in this region. It is highly recommended for male and female teen readers.

The story focuses on two teen Afghan girls, Yasmine and Tamanna. Yasmine was born and raised in Great Britain. Her parents, both highly educated and respected, feel the call to return to their homeland of Afghanistan. Yasmine, however, at first does not see the allure of Herat and her parents' homeland. The idea expressed on page 225 is often repeated throughout the story: "'We are young, we are educated, we are strong. If we too run away, what hope is there for our country? It is not the West that the old mullahs fear. It is modernity. Anything modern or new is a challenge to their way of thinking. Education is our only hope....We are all Afghans first.'" In Herat, Tamanna is hired to be Yasmine's companion. Tamanna, who has been raised in Afgahnistan, has been subjected to loss, violence, and cruel sexism. Because of the loss of both her father and her brother,she and her mother live with the brutal Uncle Zaman. The relationship between the two girls provides the foundation for the novel. When Yasmine's parent's are shot and Uncle sells Tamanna to be married, the two girls flee into the Afghan mountains with the goal of crossing the border into Pakistan.

The writing in "Thunder over Kandahar" is somewhat lacking, beginning with the confusing use of point of view. The author uses a somewhat omniscient point-of-view, switching back and forth between the two girls - sometimes in the middle of a chapter. The writing is choppy as well. Despite this, Sharon Mckay creates a compelling story and gives us what seems to be an accurate depiction of the extremely difficult circumstances under which Afghan women live.

McKay also succeeds at creating memorable, compelling characters. Yasmine and Tamanna are unforgettable, as is their sister-like comittment to one another. Despite the fact that many of the men clearly operate in a male dominant, uneducated, violent, fanatical fashion, there are male characters who are clearly "good guys," such as Yasmine's father and Babrack. And there are others who are not so clearly good, like Noor. Through him and, to a certain extent through Tamanna's twin brother, Kabeer, we see how difficult it is for males in this culture as well. What is "right" is not always so clear. Obama says American soldiers will be out of Afghanistan soon. One can see clearly through "Thunder over Kandahar" the complexity of the situation in which these soldiers find themselves.

The novel provides great thematic material for thought and discussion: education as power, friendship, family, sexism, endurance, strength, love of country, paying it forward, war, religious fanaticism, violence, and on and on. "Thunder over Kandahar" would indeed be a great piece to use in the classroom!
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