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.
What is it like to lose everything? Younis was first asked this question by a well-meaning development worker, a friendly young man whose specialty was working in war zones. They sat across from each other in cheap plastic chairs beside a bomb-scarred house that served temporarily as a hospital. Just for a chat, he had been told. Just to see if he needed help, to see if he could be helped.
"It must be so difficult," said the man, whose face was serene, "to wake up one morning and see that life as you knew it has ended, that so much has been destroyed."
Despite his youth, Younis sensed immediately that the man was trying to get him to do something dangerous. His first instinct was to play it off, to make a grim joke of itthe house was getting old anyway; destruction as a form of camouflage; at least now we dont have to maintain the roofanything to deflect the course of the inquiry.
But this would not do, he sensed, not with this man who sat...
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).
Full Review (490 words).
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...
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