16 February 2012

The Book of Jonas; Stephen Dau

The Book of JonasThe Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very powerful, interesting book about the intersection of two lives: Jonas (formerly Younis) and Christopher. Jonas is a teen in what I'm guessing is Afghanistan (the country is never identified) whose village is destroyed by the Americans, of whom Christopher is one. Thanks to a full bladder, Jonas is not in his home when it is hit by a missile (or bomb, again that's unclear) and he escapes to a cave a few miles away - he's injured and weak from loss of blood. Christopher follows him to the cave and both lie to the other about where they're from; Christopher sews up Jonas' arm and helps heal him.

Jonas is eventually rescued, taken to an Army base hospital, nursed back to health and given the opportunity to go to America - Pittsburgh. There, he is taken in by a family, goes through his last couple of years of high school and enrolls in the University of Pittsburgh. Because of his accent and looks he is bullied at his new school, but one day he reacts and is then sent to a counselor to help him deal with his anger issues. Paul, the counselor, tries to get Jonas to open up about what happened back home and how he got rescued.

After a few years, Paul introduces Jonas to Rose, Christopher's mother, who is searching for answers to her son's disappearance. The meeting leads to buried memories resurfacing... and anything more would be too spoliery. The focus on the process Rose goes through as she finds other families in the same situation, becoming part of a national movement seeking the truth about their loved one's deaths is what drags the last third of the book down - less of that would have been more.

The book doesn't assign blame or praise for various actions, letting those speak for themselves: during a time of war, who can say what they would (or could) do? The choices we make then affect us later, no matter how justified (or unjustified), but again, the author shows, not tells.

ARC provided by the publisher.

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