Review: The Four Words for Home


In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Chinese-American journalist Angie Chuang was charged by her editor with putting “a human face on the country we’re about to bomb.” What began as one of Chuang’s signature human-interest stories, albeit one made more urgent by geopolitical catastrophe, quickly catapulted her into the midst of a family—a tribe really—and then a country that were not her own, and yet, to her surprise, felt intrinsically so. For four years, as her own immigrant family splintered under the rising pressure of her father’s deteriorating mental health, Chuang embedded herself in Afghanistan’s charismatic Shirzai family, seeking a story not only for her newspaper, but for her own life. The result is The Four Words for Home, winner of this year’s Willow Books Grand Prize in Prose.