An Act of Love by Alan Gibbons is an amazing book. I was blown away by the emotion that has been poured into the events that have changed and transformed our two main characters.
It was really an eye-opening experience for me as, embarassingly, I have not always been that aware of the goings-on in respect to the war on terror in Afghanistan or of the events that went on here in the UK, such as the race riots. I think what is very important and so wonderful about An Act of Love is that it makes every attempt to show both sides of the picture that perhaps has not always been obvious and apparent in the media coverage. I think it is always very easy to hear the news about cerain events such as the war and not consider how these things might affect other people, cultures and nationalities. And in my case, it's been quite easy to not engage myself fully in these topics because of the lack of direct involvement in my own life.
In An Act of Love, our story focuses on the lives of two young boys who begin with this wonderful, strong bond of friendship. Chris and Imran share a neighbourhood and their daily lives together, but as they grow up and racial tension and world events and the different views of their families and society's, they begin to grow apart and eventually are miles apart. Chris becomes a soldier in the British army and Imran becomes involved with a group of radical Muslims.
And this transformation between the two boys is quite a heartbreaking thing to witness. For Imran, he feels as though he is fighting against unfair treatment and a different set of standards. The arrest of his older brother during a race riot has a huge impact on his life. And understandably. It felt hugely unjust reading of a 4 year sentence for a protest against racial bigotry. The treatment that Imran and his family and of his community was terrible to read. The backlash against Islam surrounding 9/11 and 7/7 and the war on terror must have something very difficult to live through. Through reading of Imran's struggles I could relate to his feelings of despair and disillusionment which leads him down a much darker path - a path not condoned by his family or iman.
And the same goes for Chris's story and path. I could really relate to his unconcious decision to slip away from his friendship with Imran as his environment, friends and hobbies changed as they both grew older. Having no real ambition of his own, he follows an easy path into the army. And his time at the Helmand Province in Afghanistan was quite poignant to read about. I loved that Chris managed to hold onto his own beliefs and maintained his integrity as those around him showed their bigotry.
An Act of Love is such a wonderful story of friendship. It shows both sides of the war on terror and the consequences, the casualties and the effects that it is has had to our very multicultural society. Thought-provoking, emotional and eye-opening, An Act of Love is a book not to miss!