Enduring Freedom by Jawad Arash and Trent Reedy

An American soldier and Afghan interpreter become life-long friends during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Enduring Freedom by Jawad Arash and Trent Reedy. Algonquin, 2021, 354 pages.

Reading Level: Teen, ages 12-15

Recommended for: ages 12-18

When the Taliban took over his country, Baheer Siddiz’s life became constrained and secretive. His extended family couldn’t even watch a movie with the sound turned up, in case Taliban snoops were listening. School was nothing but propaganda under cruel, creepy teachers. They even dragged Uncle Kabir out of the family compound and beat him up for no reason at all. Then came news of what happened in New York City on September 11, and Baheer’s world turned upside-down.

Back in the States, Joe Killian watched the same news footage with horror. What kind of people would do this? And what kind of country could shelter and abet them? Joe was still in high school, but if his Army Reserve Captain called him up, he was gung-ho to teach these Afghans a lesson.

Two years later Joe is in Afghanistan, chafing at his company’s orders. They’re not to engage the enemy, but give them a leg up into the 21st century! Not what he signed up for. Besides, it’s brutally hot, the place is filthy, the people are suspicious, and he has a whole year in this miserable place to look forward to. But then a teenager, a boy only a little younger than himself, happens upon Joe’s convoy as they’re moving to another town. The boy speaks a little English. His name is Baheer.

The authors (who remain friends today) co-wrote this story based on their own experiences while Trent Reedy was deployed in Afghanistan. As such, there’s an authentic feel to the details and personalities involved: the tedium, the terror, the self-important blowhards and straight-up guys on both sides. Joe comes to love the country he hated and Baheer finds Americans to be well-meaning in spite of their cluelessness. It’s an honest look at the first stage of the War on Terror, free of political baggage. With Afghanistan on its own again, we can pray the country doesn’t fall once more into the clutches of the Taliban, but the signs are not promising.

Considerations

  • There’s some mild cursing, of the d-n and h-l variety.
  • Joe is a Christian and Baheer a devout Muslim. The two religions are treated as equally valid, with more space given to Muslim beliefs.

Overall rating: 4 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 3.75
  • Artistic/literary value: 4

Read more about our ratings here.

Also at Redeemed Reader:

Reviews: Other books by Trent Reedy we’ve reviewed are If You’re Reading This and Divided We Fall.

Resource: Pre-9/11 Afghanistan is the setting for The Kite Runner, a book on many high school reading lists. Betsy has strong reservations about its appropriateness for teens. See “Is The Kite Runner OK for 10th Graders? and check our list of “12 Substitutions for The Kite Runner.”

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Janie Cheaney

Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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