Earth and Ashes by Atiq Rahimi, translated by Erdag M. Goknar (Harcourt) is a powerful story wrapped up in a perfect little hardcover book (4' x 7") that contains only 81 pages. It’s written in the second person (you) which means that for this story to succeed you have to identify with an old Afghani man who is squatting beside his deaf grandson on the side of the dusty road to Kabul.
You are wearing a turban and chewing something called naswar and when your grandson is hungry you cut up an apple for him to eat. You hope that a car will appear on the road so you can ask for a ride to the mine where your son, the boy’s father, is working, because you need to see him in person to give him the terrible news.
While you read Earth and Ashes you taste the dust on the road to Kabul and you feel the old man’s horror and pain over what happened a few days ago back there in his village, even though you’re sitting in an overstuffed chair in a suburban house in Canada.