Scratch the surface of war-bruised Afghanistan—every tribe and nation's stomping ground—and you unearth precious works of art condemned as idolatry, traces of forbidden melodies, sensuous relics of a buried civilization. The power of Nadeem Aslam's novel The Wasted Vigil
(Knopf) lies in the explosive adjacency of brutality and love, the poison of fanaticism diluted by the perfume of Persian lilacs. A man of sorrows roams bombed-out streets in search of his abducted daughter's lost son; a Russian woman looks desperately for her soldier brother. When hope breaks through, it's blinding—a beam of life.
— Cathleen Medwick