This one goes on my ‘Must Read’ list for 2020!! It’s not an easy read, in fact, quite the opposite. It’s heartbreaking and will shatter more sensitive readers into a million pieces. I can’t even promise that it will put you back together. Even those less sensitive will surely not be able to help themselves but be moved by this account of a young man who comes of age in Syria during the civil war, under the rule of Bashar al-Asaad.
I know this says it’s a work of fiction, but truly as with any factual storytelling of this nature that is so steeped in reality, the only parts that are fiction might be names of certain characters or the tweaking of certain events. The rest, as they say, is history.
The story is told by Sami, who grows up living with his parents and two older siblings. When he’s 12-years-old a younger brother is added to the brood. Their grandfather, the family patriarch, lives with them; a benign figure who is loved and respected by all.
Sami is no more or less academic than his siblings or peers, is happy in himself and with his friends and leads a contented existence. He finishes school and decides to postpone his compulsory military service in order to complete his tertiary studies – a decision that proves detrimental to his entire future. During his university studies, he discovers his entrepreneurial spirit, and this leads to an even further delay in entering the military. By the time he eventually completes his studies and can no longer put this off, the Arab Spring is in full force and Syria is in the firing line. Who is firing, you may ask? It seemed like everyone was … at innocent citizens trying to go about their lives, and they were most certainly the ones who lost the most in the power struggle between the al-Asaad dictatorship and the Free Syrian Army. This was a civil war that left a nation in ruins; cities destroyed; hundreds of thousands displaced … and the world silently turned its back.
We were not there. We did not live through it. We barely even saw the reality of it portrayed via our newsfeeds. We have absolutely no concept of what it must have been like to experience life during these impossible circumstances. I cannot emphasise this enough!
This semi-biographical account is harrowing, gut-wrenching, raw and real. But it is one that had to be written and one that absolutely must be read by as many people as possible. If we don’t read about it, then we are as guilty as those who committed these horrendous crimes against humanity, knowing that while the world turned a blind eye, they could continue unabated.
Although the story is told through Sami’s eyes, it’s been penned by the real-life character’s partner, and for obvious reasons, the name ‘Eva Nour’ is a pseudonym. No review could possibly do this book justice. Suffice to say that it is a 5-star read that will remain in the hearts and minds of readers long after the last words have been read.
Many thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours for inviting on what has been an eye-opening journey. Take a look at what other book bloggers thought of The Stray Cats of Homs …
Apologies for the delay in posting my review due to some technical challenges last week.