I have a friend who left two days ago to go volunteer at an orphanage – with her neurosurgeon husband – in Ethiopia for two weeks. Again. And they’ll go back again, and one day, they’ll bring home a baby from there. To me, that is so foreign to my daily life, but yet I have connections there from my friends both now and growing up, as adopting from South Korea was very “popular” where I grew up in Minnesota.
When I had the chance to read The Book of Jonas for this month’s BlogHer book club, I jumped at the chance, as it’s a view inside the head of a (fictional) young man from an unnamed Middle East country whose village was bombed by US troops. Again, it’s something that is so foreign to me, but yet something I want and need to relate to and understand on a human level.
Jonas survived the bombing, but his family perished. He miraculously makes it to a US hospital where he then is sent to the States to live as a refugee. He comes into contact with Rose, the mother of a soldier who is MIA after serving in that same country. The stories of Rose, Christopher, and Jonas are all woven together as Jonas tries to move past the events that killed his family but instead moves down a self-destructive spiral.
The book was so thought-provoking, which was just what I had hoped. The chapters were startlingly short, just one to pages for the most part, but in a way they had to be, given the story being told. In the end, it was a tragedy for all involved – just as so much of life is. The bare bones verbiage tells the story powerfully, although I think it could have done so just as powerfully without interjecting Rose into it. I felt that the author needed a female character and so put her in, but I think I might have enjoyed the book even more had it simply focused on Jonas and – through his diary that Jonas has – Christopher.
The book deals heavily with loss, and that is the topic this week in the BlogHer book club discussion of The Book of Jonas. When faced with tragedy, what is your reaction? Do you hide from it, do you seek atonement, do you search for the truth, or do you have another reaction entirely?
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a copy of “The Book of Jonas” by Stephen Dau for review purposes. This is part of a compensated campaign for the BlogHer Book Club, but all opinions remain my own.