Here is a story that you would bet could not have happened in any universe. but it did. Meredith May’s newest work, I Who Did Not Die, is the true story of two soldiers on opposite sides of one of the bloodiest wars of the twentieth century. An Iranian child soldier, who understood the meaning of mercy, refused the ordered to kill a wounded Iraqi soldier. Risking his own life to save a stranger, this child soldier hid the man behind dead bodies in a bunker where he secretly and deftly nursed him back to health.
Their only meeting had been these three hideous days on the battlefield. Then they went their separate ways. Meredith tells about the horrors these two men survived while imprisoned and tortured and the miseries that followed them into adulthood. Their lives were wretched with despair from destruction, death, sadism abuse, starvation, hazard-filled escapes from their homelands, a highly improbable, and a miraculous and fortuitous rescue from a suicide.
Twenty years later they met accidentally halfway across the world in a help center for torture survivors and did not recognize each other. As they started to talk, they found out they were both POWs and in the same war. Then came the stunning realization.
Listen to Meredith read a portion of I Who Did Not Die. Her separate viewpoints of the two soldiers Zahed and Najah, brings to light a horror and savagery that goes far beyond the battlefield. And, as any story is stronger for there being hope, she sheds light as well on the love story and humor found even in this worst of human tales.
Writing this book, she says, has made her much more spiritual as the chances of these two men ever meeting again are infinitesimal. A wonderful writer, Meredith knows not only how to describe events and behavior with her eye on the most subtle details but knows how to read the sometimes evasive hearts of people. Her writing is always history at its best with her talent for focusing on individual experience that highlights the larger issues.
Her immediate love letter, and there are so many possibilities, would be to the writer Joshua Mohr who helped her with not only his philosophy of the job of an artist, but with his active assistance and one phone call that changed her course. There is a great deal to say about artists who help others achieve success, and Meredith, who is that kind of generosity-first writer and person, nails the specifics of what it means to strengthen others and help humankind.