The Beekeeper of Aleppo

Christy Lefteri examines what it means to see in this heart rending story of survival and hope along the Syrian refugee trail to Europe.

Sometimes we create such powerful illusions,
so that we do not get lost in the darkness.

— Christy Lefteri

Synopsis:

Nuri, a beekeeper in the beautiful city of Aleppo, Syria, has lost in the war almost everything he holds dear. His wife, Afra, was an artist until she lost her vision after witnessing a tragedy. They must find the strength to leave their old life behind, to join the refugees streaming out of Syria, through Turkey and Greece, hoping for a safer life. Their goal is to reach England, where Nuri’s cousin Mustafa awaits their arrival with promises of a better life and a new purpose. But first, Nuri and Afra must reflect on the horrors they’ve suffered, and find their way back to each other.

It takes bravery to cry out, to release what is in your heart.

— Christy Lefteri

Review:

Written from the stories and people she met while volunteering with a UNICEF-supported refugee center in Greece, this is Christy Lefteri’s testament to the power of the human spirit. Her eyes opened to the tragedy of war, she explores how people can see and interpret the same events in different ways. It’s a very powerful and visceral tool.

I enjoy the way each chapter splits into present and past. They all start out in the present day as Nuri struggles to make sense of what he’s seen and done in order to move forward. Mid-sentence, the sentence splits into two moments in time – sending us back to a moment in Nuri’s past. The split is based around the particular word or phrase that shifts the story back in time and refers to the theme of the flashback memory. For example:
“I scoop it into my hands. It is…a key…was placed into my open palm.”
This memory will be about a key. And the memory is a huge component of the suffering they have faced, and things they need to process in order to move on. It’s very poignant.

The middle felt slow, like we were stuck in the part of the story where Nuri and Afra were in Athens. However, I realize how that is such a perfect literary tool – we feel the ache and impatience to move on from that place. We want the story to shift. We yearn for it, just like the refugees stuck in those camps.

Overall, this is a story that is filled with equal amounts of human suffering and hope. It’s so heavy and tragic, but overwhelmingly compassionate. I can’t say that my high opinion of this book makes this a favorite that I’d return to to reread every year. However, for the significance of its subject, it’s a must-read. The story Lefteri has woven is of the utmost importance to understand the struggles faced by people in a war-torn country, just trying to find a safe place to be.

Where there are bees there are flowers, and wherever there are flowers
there is new life and hope.

— Christy Lefteri

The Beekeeper of Aleppo
by Christy Lefteri
Hardcover, 317 pages
Published August 27th 2019 by Ballantine Books (first published May 2nd 2019)

Summary

Overall, this story of Nuri and Afra's journey out of war-torn Syria is filled with equal amounts of human suffering and hope. It's so heavy and tragic, but overwhelmingly compassionate. The story Lefteri has woven is of the utmost importance to understand the struggles faced by people in a war-torn country, just trying to find a safe place to be.

— Cassie
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