The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
Published August 27, 2019, 317 pages
“Where there are bees there are flowers, and wherever there are flowers there is a new life and hope.”Christy Lefteri, The Beekeeper of Aleppo
I finished The Beekeeper of Aleppo feeling speechless. My heart ached. It still aches. I feel the need to thrust this book into the hands of everyone I see. Maybe if more people read it, we’ll see more empathy and compassion. Maybe it would propel us closer to a remedy for the issues plaguing our era. It’s not very often that a story touches my heart as this one did. I’m still crying for Nuri and Afra. Images of burnt hives and lifeless bodies are still etched in my mind. I can still taste the sweetness of fresh honey, smell the smoke, feel the icy water, and hear the marble rolling across the floor. Books like this one remind me of the power that words truly have.
Nuri is a beekeeper, and his wife Afra is an artist. They live in Aleppo with their young son, Sami. Their idyllic life, filled with laughter, family and friends, starts crumbling as they witness the unimaginable horrors of the civil war. War hits their home with an unthinkable tragedy, leaving Afra without her sight. As their lives in Aleppo become increasingly unrecognizable, Nuri convinces Afra to leave their home behind. They embark on a journey to escape Syria, with hopes of claiming asylum in England.
The story flows seamlessly between the present and past. In the present, Nuri and Afra are living in limbo, as so many refugees are. They’ve left their home in Aleppo and survived the perilous journey to England. They’re living at a Bed & Breakfast, awaiting the results of their asylum claim. We’re transported back to their life in Syria and journey to the UK through Nuri’s memories, flashbacks, and dreams. While the novel follows their physical journey from Syria to England, it also follows the journey of their relationship, as they navigate seemingly insurmountable challenges while plagued by trauma and grief.
I found my heart aching for the memorable and complex characters in this novel. It is full of raw emotion, and had me in tears several times within the first 100 pages. Past and present are woven together skillfully, which is far more engaging than if it were presented chronologically. Despite already having the knowledge that Nuri and Afra make it to the UK safely, I still desperately needed to find out how their journey unfolded. My curiosity propelled me through the book at a speed that I didn’t think was possible with a 3-month-old baby.
Lefteri has drawn inspiration from her own experiences volunteering at a centre for refugee women and children in Athens. She is also the daughter of Cypriot refugees. Her experiences and research are evident in the vivid details and descriptions throughout the novel. I tend to gravitate towards books that tackle important social and political issues. While this book does that, it is so much more than that. It is a heart-wrenching, achingly beautiful story that touches your soul and reminds you of our shared humanity.
To sum up my feelings: READ THIS BOOK.
What is a book that you feel the need to thrust into the hands of everyone you meet? Tell me in the comments below!
Thanks for reading.