Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi - OPTIONAL

Abawi, Atia A Land of Permanent Goodbyes, 272 pages. Philomel Books (Penguin Random House LLC), 2018. $18. Language: PG-13 (8, no Fs); Mature Content: PG-13 (war related deaths, peril, subject matter); Violence: R (scenes of beatings, beheadings, shootings.)

Tareq’s apartment is bombed at the beginning of the book and only he, his father and youngest sister survive. As a result, they make the difficult decision to flee Syria for Europe to escape war and have a future. The rest of the story follows Tareq and his family on their journey through ISIS-held territory into Turkey, where they stop to earn money, and finally to Greece. Tareq’s journey is made more difficult because of the pain of leaving his homeland and the memories of family members left behind. Tareq is forced to grow up quickly through these experiences, but never completely loses hope that what the future holds will make the struggle worthwhile.

I really wanted this book to be good because I think the story needs to be told. Tareq is a sympathetic character and I was rooting for him to make it to Germany and overcome all the difficult experiences he had. However, I don’t feel like this book does what it sets out to do very well. It feels a little cliched. Everything bad that can possibly happen does, and it feels as though the author is combining every sad refugee story into one. It sometimes feels emotionally exploitative and I feel callous to say that because I know these types of experiences are a reality.  Also, every now and then Destiny pops in to wax philosophical which just didn’t fit. It messed with the pacing and tone of the rest of the story. The author is herself the child of refugees and clearly has an emotional investment in telling this story. This book might work for younger students who don’t understand much about what’s happening in the world, but for an adult who watches the news, the writing felt overly expository in places, sort of like “Why ISIS is Bad, For Dummies.” In summary, so much potential, but poor execution.

MS, HS - OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Andrea R

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