I count this among the finest first novels I've yet read. I was most impressed by the tremendous empathy, Trent Reedy, a U.S. soldier, was able to find for his main character, Zulaikha, a young Afghan girl. He wrote so deeply in her perspective that if I were told that the book was written by Zulaikha, I'd completely believe it.Part of what makes the writing so outstanding and believable is the level of detail Words in the Dust incorporates. Reedy has obviously spend countless hours researching the daily lives of the Afghan people which, when added to his personal experience in the country, makes the story utterly engrossing and realistic.Don't skip the amazing Author's Note at the end. The idea that a soldier could arrive in Afghanistan to "focus on hunting down terrorists" and leave with a quixotic drive to tell the story of one small child brought tears of joy to my eyes.