An exceptional debut novel about a young Muslim war orphan whose family is killed in a military operation gone wrong, and the American soldier to whom his fate, and survival, is bound.
Jonas is fifteen when his family is killed during an errant U.S. military operation in an unnamed Muslim country. With the help of an international relief organization, he is sent to America, where he struggles to assimilate - foster family, school, a first love. Eventually, he tells a court-mandated counselor and therapist about a U.S. soldier, Christopher Henderson, responsible for saving his life on the tragic night in question. Christopher's mother, Rose, has dedicated her life to finding out what really happened to her son, who disappeared after the raid in which Jonas' village was destroyed. When Jonas meets Rose, a shocking and painful secret gradually surfaces from the past, and builds to a shattering conclusion that haunts long after the final page. Told in spare, evocative prose, The Book of Jonas is about memory, about the terrible choices made during war, and about what happens when foreign disaster appears at our own doorstep. It is a rare and virtuosic novel from an exciting new writer to watch.
The Book of Jonas is a great combination of emotional drama and compelling mystery. Though I’ve never been in the situations Stephen Dau describes, every word rings true emotionally. (Reviewed by Beverly Melven).
The Boston Globe
Dau's riffs on the young man's life recall the dense beauty of Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient. Like that book, [The Book of Jonas] is a tale obsessed with the way war can fracture memory and cauterize the place where love can begin....If only our news had such radical belief in the power of empathy.
Starred Review. Rich with symbolism, marvelously descriptive in language...Dau's novel offers deeply resonating truths about war and culture, about family and loss that only art can reveal. A literary tour de force.
Starred Review. The toll that war exacts has seldom been demonstrated more vividly in fiction than in this tale... An essential addition to the literature of war.
Steven Galloway, author of The Cellist of Sarajevo
Stephen Dau writes with remarkable precision, vitality and honesty.
Marisa Silver, author of The God of War
This is an utterly riveting debut.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Louise J Powerful The Book of Jonas is a compelling novel that describes the human cost of war and the long-lasting effects on the human mind. Adjusting to his new life in America proves more difficult than Jonas originally thought. Mandated to see a... Read More
The 1951 Refugee Convention which established the UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, defines a refugee as someone who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country." While Jonas in The Book of Jonas, does not fit this definition exactly, he was indeed seeking refuge in the United States from the fighting that killed his family, and he could not safely stay in his home country. Once in the United States, Jonas makes friends with other refugees - a sub-culture of people running from horrors elsewhere - in his high school and later in college.
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