The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
There are books that you love right from the start and books that grow on you as the author takes you on a journey to unexpected places. Lefteri's The Beekeeper of Aleppo is one of the latter.
When I first started reading it, I was really all like, what's the buzz? It read like just another refugee narrative, the story of Nuri & Afra's journey from Syria to England--I was drawing comparisons to Abdulrazak's By the Sea--but as events unfold, it becomes clear that things aren't as they initially appear. An exploration of the strange things our minds do in the face of terror and loss, Nuri's narrative appears to be reliable at first--he's the one guiding his blind wife through their perilous journey--but cracks soon appear, signalling that maybe he's not as reliable and steady as we thought he was.
Lefteri switches seamlessly between present and past, each section linked by a key thought, idea, or image. There is a sense of mystery, a sense of "what are you not telling us?" as you read, akin to Oyeyemi's White is for Witching; not the kind that leaves you unsatisfied, but the type that leaves you hoping that the next word, the next paragraph, the next page will reveal what you really need to know. It's beautifully crafted, like a hook in your soul that draws you further on, deeper in, to a kind of inevitability I felt while reading Blackberry and Wild Rose.
As Lefteri leaves the whimsical and hard truths are revealed, the book turns sad and sorrowful. A heaviness sits in your soul, not just because terrible things happened to this refugee couple, but because terrible things are still happening to real, living refugees in our war-torn world. I admit to tearing up at the end of the book, not something I do very often (as much as I read and feel emotionally, tears are often hard to come by). It also ends with hope.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bonnier Zaffre via Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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