Sunday, June 3, 2018

Book Review: Whisper by Tal Bauer

The truth is complicated.

On September 11th, 2001, Kris Caldera was a junior member of the CIA's Alec Station, the unit dedicated to finding and stopping Osama Bin Laden.

They failed.

Ten days later, he was on the ground in Afghanistan with a Special Forces team, driven to avenge the ghosts that haunted him and the nation he'd let down. On the battlefield, he meets Special Forces Sergeant David Haddad. David - Arab American, Muslim, and gay - becomes the man Kris loves, the man he lives for, and the man he kills for, through the long years of the raging wars.

David Haddad thought he'd be an outsider his whole life. Too American for the Middle East, too Arab for America, and too gay to be Muslim. It took Kris to bring the parts of himself together, to make him the man he'd always wanted to be. But the War on Terror wreaks havoc on David's soul, threatening to shatter the fragile peace he's finally found with Kris.

When a botched mission rips David from Kris's life, Kris's world falls into ruin and ash. A shell of the man who once loved with the strength to shake both the CIA and the world, he marks time on the edges of his life. The days bleed together, meaningless after losing the love of his life.

After being captured, tortured to the edge of his life, and left for dead by his comrades, David doesn't know how much of himself is left. He vanished one day in the tribal belt of Pakistan, and the man who walks out almost a decade later is someone new: Al Dakhil Al-Khorasani.

But strange rumblings are whispering through the CIA. Intelligence from multiple sources overseas points to something new. Something deadly, and moving to strike the United States. Intercepts say an army from Khorasan, the land of the dead where the Apocalypse of Islam will rise, is coming.

And, at the head of this army, a shadowy figure the US hasn't seen before: Al Dakhil Al-Khorasani.

David is coming home.

Jewel's rating:

"Whispers from the desert scratched at his soul."

Like most Americans - and undoubtedly people around the world - above a certain age, I remember September 11th, 2001 with startling clarity. That day changed the way we see the world around us. The days and months that followed changed us even more. Whisper isn't a book I would have normally read. In fact, if it had been by pretty much any other author, I would not have. Politics and religion (of any stripe)...I'm not really friends with either. And so much war...

I'm not really sure what to say in a review of Whisper. There is no way I can do this book justice.

I feel overwrought with emotion. I'm drained, but at the same time I also feel hope. I feel that this is a story that needed to be told. Whisper is a heavy read. It's also a long read, topping out at 951 pages. And it's one of the most moving stories I think I have ever read.

There is a lot of religion, here - a metric ton of it. The story delves into what it means to be Muslim, especially in today's world. It's about loss, but also hope. It's about love and acceptance and finding peace within yourself.

There is also a lot of politics here. Much of what the author outlines really happened, and much of that was brutal and harsh. Once you finish the story, do read the Tal's afterward where he talks about his research and where fact meets fiction.

Nietzsche once said, "Beware when fighting monsters, you do not become a monster yourself. For when you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back into you."

Whisper is impeccably researched and thought-provoking. It shredded me, even as I couldn't put it down to decompress. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about the story and about Kris and David, and everything they were going through. It compelled me to keep going.

The love story of Kris Caldera and David Haddad, however, is what really anchored me. They made the journey of 950+ pages of war and terrorism worth it. Their love transcended everything.

“The Quran says all souls were created in pairs. One soul, one life, that was meant for two people. In this world, we’re supposed to find the other half of our souls and join together with them. Rejoin, and find the house of peace that we once knew before time.” [...] “I feel that with you. I always have. From the moment we met, it’s been like I’ve known you for forever. Like everything in me is supposed to belong to everything in you.”

Very highly recommended.

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