One Hundred and One Nights by Benjamin Buchholz
I am very excited about the recently published novel One Hundred and One Nights by former Brandon resident Benjamin Buchholz. This is his first novel, although he already has published a book of poems and is the author of Private Soldiers, which tells of his deployment in Iraq with the Wisconsin National Guard.
One Hundred and One Nights is set in 2006 in Safwan, Iraq, near the Kuwait border and is narrated by a man who calls himself Abu Saheeh, which translates as Father Truth. It is a story of love, family, war, revenge and being part of two cultures. Abu Saheeh has recently arrived in Safwan and has made contact with Sheikh Seyyed Abdullah, an important businessman there. He has opened a shack selling mobile phones and phone cards in a makeshift marketplace near an overpass that American convoys are using to take prisoners from Abu Ghraib to Camp Bucca. Abu Saheeh tells about a girl named Layla who visits him in the evening and is interested in American pop culture. Layla seems to materialize from the desert, and Abu Seheeh thinks that what she says is both amusing and unusual. There are flashbacks to Abu Saheeh’s privileged childhood in Iraq, his childhood fiancée Nadia, his cruel brother Yasin and his time spent studying to be a doctor in Chicago in the late 1980s and early 1990s, which kept him in the U.S. for 13 years. Other characters that deal with Abu Saheeh and move the story along are: Bashar, a fellow university student; Hussein, a member of Hezbollah; Mahmoud, the overpass guard; Ulayya, a widow from a prominent Safwan family; and Abd al-Rahim, his assistant. Abu Saheeh’s life begins to spiral out of control as a tragedy from his past comes back to the present.
Benjamin Buchholz does an excellent job of describing Iraq and Iraqi people. In one part he describes how a sandstorm blew sand into Abu Saheeh’s shack. It is so vivid that I felt as if I had to empty sand from my own shoes. This book stayed with me. It made me think. It tugged at my heartstrings. Read it and see for yourself. The Fond du Lac Library owns three books by Benjamin Buchholz: One Hundred and One Nights, Thirteen Stares (poems) and Private Soldiers.