The family is at home, even if it is war outside, they still have themselves; Tareq, his younger brother Salim, the girls Farrah and Susan and the baby twins. He respected his mother Nour and his father Fayed and of course also his grand-mother. When a bomb hits their house, only Tareq and Susan can be saved, luckily their father was at work and is also alive. They decide it is time to leave the country, after such a loss, what is it that keeps them still there? But first, they need to go to Raqqa where Fayed’s brother lives who can lend them money. Yet, Raqqa is deep in the Daesh controlled area and going there is highly risky. But this is only the beginning of a journey which hopefully ends somewhere in Europe in peace and safety.
Atia Abawi, an American journalist who spent many years in the middle east as a correspondent and is a daughter of Afghan refugees, has chosen the number one topic in the news of the last two years for her second novel. It is her background, both personal and professional, which can be found throughout the novel; you feel in every line that she knows what she is writing about and that neither the emotions she puts in her characters nor the experiences they make are just invented, but exactly what people undergo. At times, the style of the novel has some traces of journalistic work, leaves the pure fiction, but this does not reduce the quality of the novel at all.
First of all, what I really appreciated was the fact that she does not victimize her characters. Already at the beginning of the novel, they are hit by a major loss, but they keep on fighting and do not rely on others. The risk a lot, see evil deeds committed by Daesh fighters, but still remain human themselves. The part I found especially interesting was Tareq’s time in Turkey. It is not only the large number of Syrians being stranded there and setting up a kind of community parallel to the Turkish, but first and foremost the way they are exploited, how people are trying to make profit from their fate which is annoying. Yet, I guess this is just reality.
It is just the story of one family, however, it represents what many people all over the world go through. None of them wanted to leave their country, none of them wants to live in another country of which they neither know the language nor the culture, many of them believe that those who have died are blessed because they do not have to undergo this. Considering all the negative news about refugees, we should not forget their perspective. Atia Abawi has given them a beautiful and engrossing voice.