The consequences of war are as varied as the lives they touch, and when fighting reaches Raqqon, it takes the life of the father of Omar, 15, and Sufyan, 12.
The brothers flee with their sick mother and little sister to a refugee camp, where the boys, who narrate different sections of the book, draw in readers through their differing perspectives.
As the eldest, Omar feels obligated to step into his baba’s empty shoes, but the sensitive and peaceable young teen struggles to command the authority of this position. Conversely, Sufyan knows his own strong, outgoing personality makes him better suited to take charge. This conviction leads Sufyan to look for a way to help his family financially, a well-intentioned goal that gets him and several of the camp’s boys kidnapped by the extremist group Falcons of Truth.
Omar describes his desperate search for his brother, while Sufyan relays the horrible experiences he endures as an unwilling soldier for the Falcons. Excellently translated from Arabic, this slim novel acts as a razor-sharp dissection of the War’s destructive power. Moments of the book may sometimes reflect pain and suffering, but both boys’ growth and unfaltering love for each other shine brighter. A serious book despite the starkness of its topic, it stark without ever losing sight of hope or the humanity that picks itself up from the rubble of others’ folly, Saleh’s novel is one of Al Yasmine House’s releases, a novel that blooms with unforgettable beauty.
— Julia Smith