5 stars · Gonna Need a Stiff Drink For This One · Iraq · war

There are books that stay with you for days after you finish reading them. Take What You Can Carry by Gian Sardar is one of those books.

Wow. Man. Take What You Can Carry was good. Like GOOD good. Like as good as The Kite Runner w/o the emotional trauma good. The Kite Runner fucked me up for weeks after reading. It left a dark pit in my heart that had to heal slowly. Take What You Can Carry gives you the heartache without the trauma and like it’s name, you only take what you can carry.

Built around an American secretary, Olivia, desperate to be taken seriously as a photojournalist and her laid-back, easy going but heavily traumatized Kurdish boyfriend, Delan, Take What You Can Carry hits many major hot topics: interracial relationships, immigration, trauma, love, war, fear, loss, understanding and the complexity of humanity.

Sardar does an excellent job jumping between cultures and bridging gaps in the parallel realities existing between 1979 Los Angeles and 1979 northern Iraq. Her characters are incredibly well done and you can’t help but feel that these are real people you’re reading about. In the afterward, Sardar states that the characters were compilations of various family members and it’s obvious that she writes these characters and this story with a profound sense of love and duty.

The way Sardar is able to show the extreme contrast between the reality of living in LA and the reality of living in Iraq just through the eyes of the main character, Olivia, is nothing short of masterful. Very well done and a book I spent weeks talking about.


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