The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau

‘What is it like to lose everything”? This is the opening question in this  debut fiction book written by Stephen Dau called The Book Of Jonas. Younis is is a 15 year old boy who has lost his village, family and country. He survives the  destruction of his village and is saved by an American soldier. Younis eventually is granted “haven” in the USA with a foster family and changes his name to Jonas.

The sparse prose details the loss, the assimilation and diaspora of this refugee who lives in America, so far away from his homeland.The recovery of his lost memory is guided by his court ordered therapist and by the introduction to the mother of the soldier that saved his life. The mother, Rose, is desperate to find out what happened to her son who went missing after the fight. She wants to know what he can remember and Younis / Jonas is reluctant, and resistant to remember. He has a secret and the book marches the reader to this past that holds the key to his memory. The mystery of the missing soldier, the traps of memory  and the fallout of war are covered in this novel. Also note the story told about the lion and the baby gazelle, a metaphor for the comfort and cruelty of life.Dau does an excellent job of conveying the disconnect for Younis and I am haunted by his story. And that is my 2 cents…

 

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