4 out of 4 stars
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Four borders to freedom is a heart-wrenching and inspiring story by Bahram Fakouri based on real-life events. Ben was living in Iran, in the mid-eighties, during the Iraq-Iran war. It was an era of human rights violations, where teenage boys were practically forced to join and fight in the war. Illegal detentions were the norm for boys like Ben, who had an alternate mindset and perspective. At age sixteen, and after violent encounters with government goons, Ben decided his only option was to leave for either Europe or Canada. He was to sneak into Pakistan, get a counterfeit passport, and a ticket to Europe.
His smuggler was Maher, an individual whom Ben quickly came to learn was unscrupulous and ruthless. Maher was his first lesson in the diabolical nature of humans. His entry into Pakistan was the first life-threatening obstacle he overcame. Shortly after, a new hurdle emerged; Ben was a slave, sold for only 1200 US dollars. This was just the tip of what was in store for him; before long, he was knee-deep into the world of human trafficking, drug smuggling, pedophiles, and unimaginable despair and torture. His journey took him across countries and added more miles between him and his dream destination. Circumstances further forced him to engage in the very world he found disgusting. The world was out to teach him numerous lessons, and he was struggling not to lose himself.
Four borders to freedom is a highly emotional and engaging book. Through Ben, one gets to experience feelings of disappointment, relief, tension, and anger at the sickening incidences of sexual abuse. Amidst this, the author, nonetheless, manages to bring in sarcasm and humor through the various characters, enabling the reader to experience unexpected moments of laughter. The descriptions of the characters and the several scenes and settings are vivid and detailed, allowing one to visualize and feel the story. The characters have distinct physical and personality attributes, making them authentically real.
The book’s unique format is what I love most about it. It begins with a snippet of the past, then Ben's current status before going back to the onset. It is also in the form of a therapy session, where Ben tells his therapist of his ordeal through writing since he is uncomfortable with oral communication. The therapist occasionally takes breaks to recharge, a true reflection of what the reader feels, as some parts of the story are overwhelming. Therefore, the entire book alternates between Ben’s happy present and conversations with his therapist and his past and struggles to reach Germany.
There is absolutely nothing to dislike about the book; it is excellently edited, with no grammatical or spelling errors. The language is free of profanities; however, the depictions of child sexual abuse and gross human rights violations and torture may be traumatizing to some or younger readers. The book, due to its background, references the Muslim world and Islamic faith. However, this presents a learning opportunity and builds the story. The novel implores one to imagine the fate of many trying to escape their war-stricken nations and the exploitations they face. It also tells the story of a boy who overcame it all to achieve his dreams, including falling and abandoning his first love. I recommend this profound story to anyone looking for a tale of the extremities of human behavior and the depths of human ingenuity. It deserves a rating of 4 out of 4 stars.
Four borders to freedom
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