BookBrowse Reviews The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Book of Jonas

by Stephen Dau

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

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2012, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2013, 272 pages

  • 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 September 2012, and has been updated for the February 2013 paperback release. 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" backstories
  • 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 $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Refugees in the United States

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Hillbilly Elegy
    Hillbilly Elegy
    by J.D. Vance
    In this illuminating memoir, Vance recounts his trajectory from growing up a "hillbilly" in ...
  • Book Jacket: The Dark Flood Rises
    The Dark Flood Rises
    by Margaret Drabble
    Margaret Drabble, the award-winning novelist and literary critic who is approaching eighty and ...
  • Book Jacket: All Our Wrong Todays
    All Our Wrong Todays
    by Elan Mastai
    You need a great deal of time to read All Our Wrong Todays, but don't let that put you off. ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Atomic Weight of Love
by Elizabeth J. Church

In the spirit of The Aviator's Wife, this resonant debut spans from World War II through the Vietnam War.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Our Short History
    by Lauren Grodstein

    Lauren Grodstein breaks your heart, then miraculously pieces it back together so it's stronger, than before.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Mercies in Disguise
    by Gina Kolata

    A story of hope, a family's genetic destiny, and the science that rescued them.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

The library is the temple of learning, and learning has liberated more people than all the wars in history

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

O My D B

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -