Join BookBrowse today and get access to free books, our twice monthly digital magazine, and more.

BookBrowse Reviews The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Read-Alikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Book of Jonas

by Stephen Dau

The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau X
The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2012, 272 pages

    Paperback:
    Feb 2013, 272 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Beverly Melven
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A moving tale about the effects of war

The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau is about many things - the effects of war, the refugee experience, the negative effects of repression, what it's like to be related to an MIA soldier - but it's mostly about the truth.

Jonas is a teenage boy from a deliberately unspecified country. The descriptions seem to fit Afghanistan but would likely also fit most war-torn countries in the Middle East. The U.S. military destroys his village, but Jonas is saved by Christopher, a U.S. soldier who later goes missing. Jonas comes to the United States alone. On the plane over to America, Jonas changes his name from Younis, for reasons he can't explain. The story of what really happened is one of the truths waiting to be explored in this novel.

The Book of Jonas is a great combination of emotional drama and compelling mystery. The narrative is not linear, but it's not hard to follow. It is broken into sections (confessional, atonement etc.) named after the parts of a religious ceremony and the descriptions in each narrate Jonas's experiences. For example, it is in the "confessional" section that we find out what really happened.

Jonas spends years in the U.S., graduates from high school, goes to college, has a girlfriend - all things you would expect of the average young American adult. But he never lets anyone get close to him. Though many people come to the U.S. for refuge, I thought Jonas's situation must be particularly difficult, since he moves to the country that was responsible for the death of his family.

Most of the book is written from Jonas's perspective, but we also see what life is like for Christopher's mother, Rose, after her son goes missing and is presumed dead. The reader also gets a peek at Christopher's perspective by reading parts of his journal. Though I've never been in the situations Dau describes, every word rings true emotionally. I could easily see myself making the same decisions Jonas, Christopher and Rose do. I spent most of the book wanting to help Jonas in some way, even if it was unclear if anyone really could.

The Book of Jonas makes no effort to examine the hows and whys of the fighting happening in Jonas's village. Dau's focus is the personal - how it feels to be a human being in that situation. How your actions can surprise you. How sometimes you do things and how you are never able to stop thinking about what you did.

The truth haunts all the characters in the novel. Christopher faced it, Jonas is trying hard to avoid it, and Rose just wants to know what it is. Several key scenes are described more than once - with different endings. But at the end of the book, I had no doubts about what really happened. I wonder if that is true for everyone - if every reader's version of the truth is the same as mine.

Reviewed by Beverly Melven

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in September 2012, and has been updated for the February 2013 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Refugees in the United States

Read-Alikes

Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Book of Jonas, try these:

  • Butterfly Yellow jacket

    Butterfly Yellow

    by Thanhha Lai

    Published 2020

    About this book

    More by this author

    Winner of the 2019 BookBrowse Award for Best Young Adult Novel

    Perfect for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo, Ibi Zoboi, and Erika L. Sanchez, this gorgeously written and deeply moving own voices novel is the YA debut from the award-winning author of Inside Out & Back Again.

  • The Woman Who Lost Her Soul jacket

    The Woman Who Lost Her Soul

    by Bob Shacochis

    Published 2014

    About this book

    A magnum opus that brings to life an intricate portrait of catastrophic events that led up to the war on terror and the America we are today.

We have 6 read-alikes for The Book of Jonas, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Long After We Are Gone
    Long After We Are Gone
    by Terah Shelton Harris
    Terah Shelton Harris's marvelous family drama Long After We Are Gone begins with the death of the ...
  • Book Jacket: Exhibit
    Exhibit
    by R O. Kwon
    Exhibit, R.O. Kwon's sophomore novel (after The Incendiaries, 2018), introduces readers to Jin Han, ...
  • Book Jacket: Somehow
    Somehow
    by Anne Lamott
    Anne Lamott knows a thing or two about love. In fact, there is so much of it exuding from her essay ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Wings Upon Her Back
    by Samantha Mills
    Faith is a delicate thing. At its best, it can offer peace in times of crisis. At its worst, it can ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
The Pecan Children
by Quinn Connor
Two sisters deeply tied to their small Southern town fight to break free of the darkness swallowing the land whole.
Book Jacket
Long After We Are Gone
by Terah Shelton Harris
After their father's death, four siblings rally to save their family home in this gripping and hopeful tale.
Win This Book
Win Bright and Tender Dark

Bright and Tender Dark by Joanna Pearson

A beautifully written, wire-taut debut novel about a murder on a college campus and its aftermath twenty years later.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A W in S C

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.