The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon is hands-down my favorite read so far this year. The imagery is gorgeous and the story explores the depths of human emotion and our compassion for those different than us. I feel that it’s an important read for adults and teens alike in today’s world of war and refugees.
Subhi’s mother and sister fled to Australia from war-torn Myanmar. He was born in the detention center and has lived there for every one of his 10 years, waiting for his father to come and take them away from days of moldy food, unsanitary conditions and unrest. In his imagination, the night sea from his mother’s stories comes every night to bring him presents from his “ba.” He can hear the songs of the whales and smell the fish as he collects his treasures. Just when things are getting particularly bad in the camp, a girl named Jimmie appears from outside the fences with stories of her own. She’s lost her mother and Subhi and Jimmie form a tight bond. Can they find comfort in each other when life is full of sickness and death? Can they ever be as free as their stories?
This poignant novel shows us just how bad conditions can get for refugees who often lay in wait for years in a detention center as they enter countries that don’t want them. They’re treated worse than criminals by the people who are supposed to care for them and are forgotten by the rest of the country. Why can’t we just agree that people are people and treat each other with respect?
I love the story told from Subhi’s imagination. It made the novel into a folk-tale and showed us the resiliency of the human spirit without hitting us over the head with the moral of the tale. Subhi is the embodiment of hope and wonder. The language throughout the novel is magical, even though it’s a contemporary tale. I also loved that this was a YA novel without a romance thrown into the mix. That’s rare these days.
The author added a short essay at the end with facts about real life refugees. Their plight is often hidden from society, so it was eye-opening. If you enjoy novels with lots of imagery and heart that are out to make a difference in the world, add this to your reading list.
5 out of 5 stars