The Letter No One Would Read

The Letter No One Would Read

Author
Andrew Penney
ARRSE Rating
0.5 Mushroom Heads
Andrew Penney is an American author, adopted from a southern European family when very young. It’s not clear what his profession may be, but he is affluent enough to own a flat in a nice part of New York, and to be able to drop everything on a whim and disappear for a month or so with no visible means of support. His book tells the story of the impact on him of being In New York on the 11th September 2001, helping with clearing up/rescue at Ground Zero in the following days, and the impact the actions of the terrorists and their victims had on his life.

This involved him heading to Pakistan to see the plight of Afghan refugees living close to the border. His simplistic world view led him to this because ‘the twin towers happened because of US involvement in Afghanistan’. The book tells at great length and in mind-numbing detail the events, experiences, and people that met him on arrival. There are some lovely descriptions of the Money Changers' Market, and other 'colourful' life overseas, and for this I gave the half mushroom head. He describes in simple terms the interaction between Pakistanis and Afghans, trails interminably from refugee camp to refugee village, describing similar circumstances and telling similar stories of the things that had happened to the refugees in each place. He seems surprised when he ‘discovers’ that small boys are used to weave rugs in Pakistan, that deformed people beg for a living, that even those with houses don't necessarily have mains sanitation, water and power, that street children are not welcome in restaurants, and that beggars can be both aggressive and persistent. He is shocked to find the wealthy suburbs where the gun runners, drug gang lords and other criminals have their well-guarded homes, although I am sure there are similar all over the world.

After twenty six chapters of this, we finally get to the letter that’s the supposed subject of the book. It’s written by another person with no input from the author, whose self-appointed job it is to take this letter back to the USA and gather political and financial help for the Christian Communities who are struggling to survive and create civilised villages and communities for refugees and Christian citizens. The final chapter tells what happened to those efforts, although the title of the book is a clue. I suspect he's not very good at charitable fundraising work, working his connections or indeed doing anything other than demanding to read his letter to a congregation.

Whilst there was some interesting descriptive work in this book, I was annoyed by the lack of knowledge and awareness which this man took to a dangerous foreign country with him and his confidence that he would get by, get home and become a better person as a result of his trip. He put himself into danger, and it was only by stumbling across a number of good, kind and helpful people that he got away with it. His simplistic view of politics and lack of historical knowledge is also worrying in someone who is no doubt now set up as a Subject Matter Expert on Afghan refugees, Pakistani Politics, and the persecution of Christians in Islamic countries.

The book needs a good proof reader, as I spotted several typing mistakes.

The author also has a dim view of the intelligence of his readers, note the title - ‘Peshawar, Pakistan’. As opposed to ‘Peshawar, Texas, Kansas or Montana'? .

My summary – The author claims that his book is an attempt to draw attention to the treatment of Christian minority in Muslim Pakistan. This goal is relegated to in the final chapter of a book of ‘Look at me, look what worthy stuff I did on my holidays’.

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