By Lynn Willoughby
This little book was on the 2019 Canada Reads lists and a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Awards. While we get an intimate view of the Syrian war through the eyes of an eleven year old boy, at times it times it is funny, at times we see Abu Bakr’s world of soccer and video games. Then there is the terror of war.
“Homes stands as one of those rare books that manages to find humanity in the inhumane and, in the end, says more about love than war.” – Marcello di Cinto
This book is well worth reading. The language is quite simple, but the story is so important. As Abu Bakr’s father tries to shelter his large family from the never ending horrors of war, the lessons he teaches his son are universal. Do not let fear and evil define you. We will not let war define us. The love of this large, extended Muslim family is evident on every page and while fire bombs are going off all around them, car bombs are killing people and soldiers are shooting people daily with their AK-47s, giggles and joyfulness of childhood are also present. And always the love of family – whether he is teased by a cousin or getting a bear hug from an uncle.
The Canadian connection was especially poignant for me when the family finally arrives in Edmonton on a snowy Christmas Eve in 2014, they are struggling with jet lag, foreign currancy, a strange language, an unfamiliar neighbourhood and the bitter cold. No one goes out doors for three days! And as Abu Bakr starts school in Highlands Junior High (a school I once taught in!) he meets Ms Maggie, Rue, her dog, and discovers the wonder of Google Earth Street View; he is able to locate his old home and his father’s bakery.
As Ms Yeung, his English as a Second Language teacher, asks Abu Bake “What is a secret wish you have?”, Abu Bakr’s answer is “I want to share my story.”
You have Abu Bakr, you have.
AK-47s have a muzzle velocity of some 700 metres per second, and a cyclic firing rate of 600 rounds per minute.