Of all the atrocities depicted in Shah's eye-opening memoir about the horrors and subtle beauties of Afghanistan, this one is the most memorable: ''The locals had posted up a warning to America: 'We yearn for death more than you yearn for life.''' Born in England, journalist Shah grew up on her Afghan father's folklore from his homeland. She sets out to find that wonderland -- and to understand the gritty truth about the mountainous country. (Her acclaimed 2001 documentary ''Beneath the Veil'' focused on women's plight under the Taliban.) She is frostbitten and scared. She is disgusted by photojournalists who, after Sept. 11, encourage rebels to wave anti-American propaganda. Traversing a place where women think the birth control pill is a myth, she concludes: ''One person's reality is another person's wild legend.''