"In Joukhadar's intoxicating debut, the past and present are brought to life, illuminating how, in exile, neither can exist without the other. With clear, exquisite prose, Joukhadar unspools a brightly imagined tale of family and grief, mapmaking and migration. This important book is a love letter to the vanished--and to what remains."--Hala Alyan, author of Salt Houses
"E. M. Forster taught us that 'fiction is truer than history because it goes beyond the evidence.' Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar's magic first novel is a testimony to that maxim. We've all been aware of the plight of Syrian refugees, but in this richly imaginative story we see one small family - both haunted by history and saved by myth - work their way west. It's beautiful and lovely and eye-opening."
--Chris Bohjalian, bestselling author of The Flight Attendant and The Guest Room
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For fans of The Kite Runner, a magical yet very moving story of one young Syrian girl's journey to find her way home.
Nour is a young Syrian girl who has lost her father to cancer. Wanting to be close to her relatives, Nour's mother - a cartographer who makes beautiful hand-painted maps - moves her family back to the city of Homs. Nour's father was a real storyteller and he told her that the roots of the trees connect to the ground across the world. She knows they left her father in the ground back in America, so she starts telling him the ancient fable of Rawiya, whispering it into the ground so he might hear.
Rawiya left her home dressed as a boy in order to explore the world. She became apprenticed to Al Idrisi, who was a famous cartographer tasked by King Roger II of Sicily to make the first map of the world. Together with Al Idrisi, Rawiya travelled the globe, encountering adventures - including the mythical Roc and a battle in the Valley of Snakes - along the way. It is this story that gives Nour the courage to keep going when she has to leave Homs after it is bombed and faces a long journey as a refugee in search of a new home - a journey that closely mirrors that of Rawiya many centuries before.
When Nour and her sister are forced to part from their mother, she gives them a special map that contains clues that will lead them to safety. The two stories are beautifully told and interwoven, the real interspersed with the magical/imagined so that the overall effect is uplifting - about the strength of the human spirit, the strength of women in particular, the power of a journey, and what it takes to find a home.