So first off a little apology for having review overload this week but I’ve got so may great things to share! Last month I read The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau with the BlogHer book club. This was Dau’s first novel and I was drawn to it initially because of the setting. The main character Jonas is from an un-named country in the Middle East (though I’m sure anyone with a little bit of geography and cultural sense can figure out the intended country). The other characters are Christopher a US soldier and his mom who is searching for any news about him after he disappeared. I really love stories that have a strong setting, that is set in another country or unique location and a really good plot line. This hit all those points.
At the start of the story Jonas is a 15 year old boy living in an unnamed Muslim country. He is orphaned after an attack on his village and is eventually relocated to the United States. His host/adoptive family (it wasn’t really clear the relationship) are the typical middle American family who are endearing in their attempts to help Jonas but it’s clear they are woefully unprepared and not interested in Jonas maintaining his traditions. Jonas struggles through high school and college and ends up having court-order therapy sessions that bring out some of the trauma he underwent. He also remembers a soldier, Christopher Henderson whom he credits with saving his life. Christopher disappeared after he and Jonas met and Rose, Christopher’s mother has been searching for any information about her son.
The book splits between Jonas’ story and Christopher, from the present to the past making it a little frustrating to read. I won’t give away the end, and even though I did like the story it also upset me. I’m curious to see how others read the story, which character(s) they relate to because for me it was Jonas. The elements of the story that I didn’t like was the complete disregard for Jonas’ culture and religion. It seemed like the underlying message was that he was given his great gift to come the US and his new family really wasn’t involved with him. They were more interested in converting him than providing him a safe and welcoming home to live in. I think the biggest struggle with the book was what was the main message – was it meant to be a story about soldier’s that went missing or about the cost of war in general? The focus seemed so heavy on the loss of Christopher when Jonas’ entire family was killed. I had to feel that this was somehow a commentary on the value that is place on American lives vs. others lives.
I’ll be discussing this book for a few weeks with the BlogHer ladies and hoping to add a different perspective. If you’re looking for a new read, pick this one up and leave me a comment (and join in on the book club discussion). I would love to know if you had the same feelings I did.
**This review is a paid review for BlogHer book club, all opinions are my own.