The Darling of Kandahar

Felicia Mihali

In 2007, a Canadian soldier stationed in Kandahar sent a letter to Maclean’s magazine thanking the editors for the cover of their annual University Student Edition, which featured a young Canadian woman of Romanian descent, who became the new “pin-up” girl for the soldier and his comrades.  Headlines flashed “The Darling of Kandahar” inspiring Romanian-Canadian writer Felicia Mihali’s first novel in English. The soldier, Sergeant Christos Karigiannis, died a short time after he wrote the letter.  

It was the sudden, wrenching turn in the story that held her, Felicia Mihali recently told Maclean’s.  “It became a strange, dark matter with his death, and then his funeral was in Laval, near where I live.” Mihali imagines the relationship between the two, renamed Yannis and Irina, as it might have developed in a brief e-mail correspondence. Irina is 24, attending university and becomes a minor celebrity in Montreal following the photo shoot. Yannis, stationed in Kandahar, shares with her his beliefs about the Taliban, on Afghan history, on the behavior of the troops, on ordinary people, on life and death. Both are immigrants, both in their individual realities, alone. Gradually, with the tension of the war in Afghanistan as the backdrop, they fall in love.

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