April 19, 2012

Review: The Book of Jonas

Time for another BlogHer Book Club review! We read The Book of Jonas, the debut novel of Stephen Dau.

The Book of Jonas gives us glimpses into three very different, but connected, lives. Jonas (originally Younis), is a Muslim teen refugee from a Middle Eastern country left unnamed in the book. After his family and village are destroyed by a misguided United States military operation, he runs away from the trauma both physically and emotionally as he tries to adjust to life in the U.S. Christopher is an American solider who was part of the raid that killed Jonas's family, and who Jonas says saved his life. Although he's been missing ever since that night, we see his inner wrestling through his journal. Finally, there is Rose, Christopher's mother, who channels her despair over not knowing what has become of her son into activism, in part to avoid having to come to terms with her own loss.

You could say it is a story about the effects of war and the how people have to live with choices they're forced to make, or about the different ways people struggle after devastating events. But ultimately I think it is a book about people searching for release, whether that release is absolution from guilt or from the pain of not having answers. The sections of the book (Processional/Remembrance/Communion/Confession/Atonement/Benediction/Recessional) bring to mind a gathered community of faith. That sense of gathering and the way the characters' stories interconnect suggest that the release they all seek cannot come in isolation, but only as they reach out and are open to receive.

Disclosure: I was compensated for my BlogHer Book Club participation. All opinions expressed are my own.

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