Christy Lefteri comes to the blog today with a story of a Syrian refugee’s experience as they leave behind their home and life to start anew in the midst of tumult in
The Beekeeper of Aleppo
Nuri and Afra are the focus of the story, with Nuri being the narrative voice: a voice that switches from past to present, reality to dream states in ways unexpected and wholly heartbreaking. After losing their young son to a bomb in Aleppo as the bombings and strife raged on, Afra, known for her unique paintings and artwork was rendered blind: shock, sadness, even the numbing grief of the loss of their child seemed to weigh her down in ways unimagined. But it was not the first inclination of hardships to come. Her husband Nuri, along with his cousin Mustafa were raising and keeping bees in the hills above the city. Harvesting the honey, Nuri and his cousin have a certain affinity for the little creatures: Nuri’s the more instinctual and emotional tie where his cousin’s was more scientific.
But with the war and hardships, and untold dangers, Nuri and his cousin started to stockpile money, passports and other means of escape from Syria – knowing that things would only get worse. In fact, his cousin’s wife and daughter left the country and resettled in England, just waiting for the rest of the family, including Nuri and Afra to join them. But here – the story dives again into deeply disturbing imagery as the search for Mustafa’s young son ends in tragedy and Mustafa makes the perilous journey out of Syria to join his wife and daughter. Throughout the story, Nuri and Mustafa keep ‘in touch’ through email – telling of the dangers, the journey, even the successes as Mustafa finds himself in Yorkshire and is teaching other immigrants about bees and beekeeping.
It is truly Nuri’s story that we are following – the confrontations with ‘police’ and the associated death threats, rivers and abandoned buildings full of bodies – many with hands bound, the outrageous sums of money to ‘leave’ along with the dangers of unscrupulous ‘agents’. Death from drowning, being lost in the shuffle of ‘refugee camps, endless piles of paperwork and Nuri’s own tentative (at times) grasp on reality. From a park in Athens that becomes a hunting ground for the weak and uncertain, to finally arriving at Heathrow and placed in a boarding house while awaiting asylum paperwork the story is gripping, heartbreaking and a lesson to us all about the lengths and breadths people will go to assure a better life for themselves, even leaving behind all that is familiar and known. Lefteri’s prose and story-telling is solid and based on her own experiences in working with refugees, and her own life being effected by fleeing her homeland with her family. Personally I think her own ‘stories’ as a child growing up in a new place helped to infuse this story with an emotional accessibility that speaks to readers throughout the book – as we hope for the best for Nuri and Afra, and wonder of his gentle caressing of the little bee with no wings….perhaps he’s decided that everyone needs a chance.
Title: The Beekeeper of Aleppo
Author: Christy Lefteri
Genre: Assimilation, Contemporary Literary Fiction, Family Saga, Middle East, Political commentary, Refugee Stories, Second Chance, Setting: Britain, Setting: Syria, Sociological Relevancy
Published by: Ballantine Books
Published on: 27 August, 2019
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 8 Hours: 43 minutes
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The unforgettable love story of a mother blinded by loss and her husband who insists on their survival as they undertake the Syrian refugee trail to Europe.
Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, rich in family and friends, in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo--until the unthinkable happens. When all they care for is destroyed by war, they are forced to escape. But what Afra has seen is so terrible she has gone blind, and so they must embark on a perilous journey through Turkey and Greece towards an uncertain future in Britain. On the way, Nuri is sustained by the knowledge that waiting for them is Mustafa, his cousin and business partner, who has started an apiary and is teaching fellow refugees in Yorkshire to keep bees.
As Nuri and Afra travel through a broken world, they must confront not only the pain of their own unspeakable loss, but dangers that would overwhelm the bravest of souls. Above all, they must journey to find each other again.
Moving, powerful, compassionate, and beautifully written, The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a testament to the triumph of the human spirit. It is the kind of book that reminds us of the power of storytelling
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.