A family of five escapes from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan in the dark of night. They throw themselves aboard a truck along with numbers of other desperate people, just minutes ahead of the patrolling Taliban. They are on their way to America. Only something unbearably horrible has happened: the youngest, six-year-old Mariam, did not make it aboard the truck–and there is no going back to get her.
Many stories start with an event that drives the rest of the story with its cry for resolution. This event, in the first pages of Shooting Kabul, grips the rest of the story with a barely containable wail for resolution. Yet Sensai manages to pace the everpresent anguish with the reality of any immigrant family adjusting to life in America in a very realistic and non-maudlin way.
The narrator of this story is Mariam’s 11 year-old brother Fadi. Fadi let go of Mariam’s hand as they were jumping in the truck and thus bears a heightened burden of guilt. His struggle to deal with his guilt as he tries to fit into his new life makes up the bulk of the story. The resolution is satisfying, evolving out of his strengths rather than his vulnerabilities..
This is a perfect book for middle school readers who like to read about people caught up in real, historically significant events, who are driven to understand more about their wider world. The tragedy that Fadi experiences will grab their interest and their empathy.