Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Review: On Two Feet and Wings by Abbas Kazerooni

Title: On Two Feet and Wings
Author: Abbas Kazerooni
Publishers: Hachette India Children's Books
Date of Publication: January, 2011
Genre: Biography
Format: Paperback
Length: 240 pages.
My Source: Paperback

A Short Synopsis: He is in a foreign city, he is alone, and he is just a boy...
Close to his tenth birthday, Abbas has to leave his parents and friends, and flee Tehran. The Iran-Iraq war is at its bloodiest. The Ayatollahs, the rulers in Iran, have reduced the age of recruitment into the army. And if Abbas doesn’t leave soon, he will have to go to war.
In the strange and often frightening city of Istanbul, Abbas has to grow up faster than ever. He has to learn difficult things – how to live on his own, how to make his way around, and most importantly, how to judge who is a friend and who an enemy.
Living alone for fifteen weeks in a run-down hotel, Abbas finds a friend in Mourat, the owner, while he waits to get his dream-visa to England. Meanwhile, he has to deal with his new life and work at several jobs to make ends meet. Most of all, he has to guard against being manipulated, and watch his back at all times.
This is young Abbas’s remarkable story of innocence and wisdom, and survival against the worst odds. Like all stories, this one is often happy and sometimes sad. But unlike most others, this one is true.

My Review: When I first read the description of the story at the back of the book, I was like Come on! This CAN NOT be true! Little did I know what awaited inside the covers!

Abbas leaves his family when he is 9 years old to escape being drafted into the army. He's alone on the streets of Istanbul, trying to survive. His journey is aided by the kindness of strangers and his innate uncanny sense of who is trustworthy and who is not. 
In a strange country where he doesn't speak the language, Abbas strikes it lucky with the first person that he meets, a taxi driver called Ahmed. It is only a brief encounter, but Ahmed ensures that Abbas finds a decent hotel, and it's here that he will spend the next 3 months.

The hotel is reasonably priced (saving his money has been drummed into his mind by his father), but the area is not great and the room has cockroaches and his sheets are always a little dank. The one saving grace is Mourat, the owner, who takes Abbas under his wing.

The time Abbas spends at the hotel would be quite an adventure for anyone, let alone a nine year old boy. He manages to navigate his way through the city, find the best rates to exchange his money, make his way to the British Embassy, wangle himself a job at the hotel, learn backgammon and make a friend.

If you didn't know this was a true story you would find it hard to believe. This boy, who is so mature in so many ways is also just a 9 year old boy who cries himself to sleep and misses his Mum (Maman, as he calls his mother). As much as I found this book so sad, it's not actually a sad story, Abbas is a funny and courageous character and as he has written the book, you know it will not end all that badly. One other thing that I think of when I read books about children living such difficult lives, is how lucky I am to have been born where I was. The one reason Abbas had to go through this is because he was born in Iran, for those of us living in countries not surrounded by war and conflict, we should be forever grateful.
Where this book ends, is the beginning of a new chapter in Abbas' life. He starts studying in a boarding school in England and a new path of his life is paved. 

Trust me, there were many instances when I had hard times believing that all these things actually happened to a nine year old boy and he survived all these! All the time I kept asking myself What would have I done if I were in his place? Besides the incredibility of the incidents, the way of narration is appreciable as well. Abbas's language is simple and beautiful. 
The story is incredibly true, and it is amazing. I'd recommend it to everyone who loves reading. It's worth reading books like this.

About the Author: Abbas Kazerooni is a lawyer in California, USA. He is also a professional actor, writer and producer. Shows he has acted in include Sleuth on the London stage (lead role); the BBC's The Land of the Green Ginger (lead role); HBO's The Hamburg Cell; and the independent feature film Universal Senses. On Two Feet and Wings is his first book.

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