is Montreal author Dimitri Nasrallah's first novel. It's a
globe-trotting, heart-breaking story about war, immigration, and exile.
This Gazette review
justifiably calls it a tall tale, but it's equally true that the
setting (Montreal, for much of the novel), and the specificity of the
experiences make it clear that this is a work with its foundations in
lived experience and careful observation.
follows Nakhle (Niko) Karam and his father Antoine on their
flight from war-torn Beirut after a bomb kills Niko's pregnant mother.
Desperate to escape, they find temporary refuge in Cyprus, then Turkey
and Greece. Eventually the two are separated - Niko is sent to Canada to
live with his Tante Yvonne and her husband Sami, because Antoine cannot
afford to immigrate himself. Niko grows up in Canada with his aunt and
What I find particularly powerful about books like
or Dave Eggers's
What is the What
(another heart-breaking book about surviving war and refugeedom - about a Sudanese Lost Boy
is how they emphasize the hardships immigrants and refugees face,
hardships that are all the more horrific because we recognize the
contexts in which they occur. While we all know war is bad, we don't
realize the extent to which people still deal with adversity when they
arrive in the places that will be their new homes.
Anyway enough yammering about refugees. Know this:
is one of
the best 2011 novels I've read, and it is an epic, sweeping story about
war and family and loss that really conveys the agony of exile, and
also makes that suffering comprehensible on a really intimate level.
It's a debut novel by a Montreal author. Please read it.