As the novel
opens, Yussef is a twelve-year-old boy. He has spent all of his
life with his family in the south of Iraq, in a rural setting
where his parents have managed to make a living raising goats
a little schooling and has learned a little English from a mobile
library that stops near his home on a monthly basis. But he is
hardly prepared for the opening scene.
salesman has stopped at his home. Yussef, bored with the conversation,
wanders off and falls asleep away from his home. Waking in the
morning, he finds that his entire family has disappeared. He is
alone in the desert. There is no trace of his family.
by another "orphan" (a goat named Tenika), goes in search
of his family, a journey which covers about 500 miles over a two
month period. Along the way he meets people who will, in one way
or another, play a part in the rest of his life.
leads him to a French Doctor, Yvette Prigent, which in turn, leads
him to Sergeant Ernesto Alvarez. Sergeant Alvarez is a Blackhawk
pilot attached to the 101st Airborne Division. The Sergeant has
been busted down in rank a short while before meeting Yussef,
for taking his "bird" on an an unauthorised mission
of mercy. Nonetheless, after meeting Yussef, he attempts another
mission of mercy - an attempt to reunite Yussef with his family.
Sergeant Alvarez are shot down and captured by "insurgents".
One of the captors, a former student at UC, Santa Cruz (pre-911)
helps the Iraqi boy and the wounded American pilot escape, even
as his comrads discuss selling the American.
many decisions along his journey - decisions that the average
twelve-year-old should never have to face. He uses his instincts,
his heart, and his mind to find solutions. In other words, he
uses all his resources within every situation. And
At the end
of Part One of the novel, Yussef rejoins his family. His father,
who is very ill, managed to hang-on until Yussef joins them at
a refugee camp hospital. On his deathbed, Yussef's father reaches
out to Yussef in a dying grasp and a "strong energy"
seems to flow from the father to the son.
his family return to their rural home in Southern Iraq, where
he is faced with taking over the duties of his father and of leading