As Ahmad tells the stories of these desert nomads and their dying way of life, he shares the humble sacrifices and hardships of the people who make their home among the temporary camps they build in the unforgiving desert wastelands. As the wandering falcon travels the miles, he discovers that his identity and fate are inextricably tied to the tribes and learns that the nomadic way of life is nearing extinction. Both verbally sparse and atmospherically lush, The Wandering Falcon is the story of a boy turned man in the throes of an unimaginable migration that will involve both his body and his soul.
This was a book I feared I would have trouble reviewing, for while I was caught up in the story, it was harder to put my finger on the threads that held the story together once I put the book down to think on it. Though the book is described as a novel, there was a fluid style to it that made me regard it as more of a group of short stories that each featured a brief appearance of the wandering falcon. I grew more relaxed about the story when I started to think of it in this way and was better able to fully invest in it and enjoy it. Though the subject is ostensibly the titular character of the wandering falcon, this book was more of a homage to a dying and alien way of life.
A lot of the story revolved around the intricate ways of life that embody different groups of nomadic desert tribes. Due to recent changes in their countries’ laws, these nomads are finding that their movements are being increasingly restricted, particularly across national borders they have long crossed freely. These restrictions cause the tribe members to become increasingly angry and disillusioned. The groups become more and more secretive when it comes to their migration habits and patterns, and at times, this puts them at serious and deadly risk. As the wandering falcon moves from group to group, he begins to embody all that is ephemeral and free about these people and their way of life.
In small bits and pieces a more developed and nuanced picture of what life if like for these tribes begins to be revealed with cautious care and great skill. Here are fierce loyalties and decades-old feuds, survival amongst the elements and terrible retributions. As a reader who views things from a Western world perspective, the plight of these characters often seemed hostile and strange to me, even unjust at times. The casual cruelty of a man who is stoned to death seemed unremittingly foreign to me, as did the prospect of women being sold to brothels or other servitude. But even though I didn’t understand the ways of this world, I did come to see that these practices were centuries old and had become so ingrained in these societies that, after awhile, my indignation was replaced by a insatiable curiosity that had me hastening through the pages to see what would come next.
This book was very intriguing in that it shined a brilliant spotlight on a culture that even now is becoming further and further relegated to the past. It wasn’t a happy or uplifting book, that’s for sure, but where the book excels is in its exploration and understanding of the lives that hinge on concepts that are foreign to most of the world. It was a rather short book, but in its impact, it had a tremendous payoff. A very thought-provoking read.
This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.