Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Book of Jonas

"A murder remains a murder and goes on affecting people." This quote from the 1945 film Love Letters came into my mind after reading Stephen Dau's The Book of Jonas, as I sought for words to express the emotional desolation which lingered on after the final page. None of us live in a vacuum, and while the wars our country fights are far away from our homes, they touch us nevertheless. When a gifted writer such as Stephen Dau is able to impart the essence of  tragedy, telling with a minimum of graphic detail what it is to have one's soul lacerated as one is compelled not only to witness atrocities but to commit them, then the reader is left with a gutted feeling, as one who has not only heard but seen. Of all the bloody footage of massacres I have had the misfortune to glimpse, no picture is so seared upon my mind as the scene conjured by Dau of an eight-year-old girl in a white dress, playfully gathering pebbles, blissfully unaware that she is within range of hidden American troops who are about to attack her village in an unnamed Middle Eastern country. Even when many have died, sometimes it is one little life which tips the scales of justice, for no life is too small, and the smallest are often the greatest.

The novel is aptly named after the biblical prophet, for the main character Jonas, as he deals with the unspeakable, is in his very being a prophetic witness of both punishment and mercy. His coming to America after his village is destroyed by American troops is like coming into the midst of the enemy camp. As he struggles to understand his loss he encounters a grieving mother whose son was lost overseas. Jonas realizes that he knows the son and knows what became of him but whether he will be able to tell the truth or not is at the heart of the mystery of the story.

For a BlogHer discussion on The Book of Jonas, please visit HERE.

(*NOTE: I was compensated for this BlogHer Book Club review but all opinions expressed are my own.)


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