Two people were born on the 2nd March 1975, one in Eritrea one in London. Thirty years later Yonas has to leave Eritrea and travels to England as a refugee, when he arrives he has to ‘work off his debt’ in a factory and so fails to register as a refugee.
His asylum case lands on Jude’s desk. Opening the file, she finds a patchwork of witness statements from those who met Yonas along his journey: a lifetime the same length of hers, reduced to a few scraps of paper.
Soon, Jude will stand up in court and tell Yonas’ story. His life depends on how she tells it.
I have to admit I wasn’t sure about this when I first opened it. It starts with Jude opening the file but it is told in second person and frankly that was a bit weird.
However, I soon got past that and as I started reading Yonas’ story I became fully absorbed in it and found myself reading it at every opportunity. Yonas’ journey is horrifically compelling, all the more so for the flashes of joy and hope he finds in the simplest things, and for knowing that people are going through the same things day in day out.
Once Yonas reaches England he develops a habit of keeping newspaper articles about refugees and immigrants. the author uses these at the start of every chapter. At first I felt it was a bit of a gimmick, but then the more you get to know Yonas, and the other people he meets in his situation, the more stark the comparison between the savage dehumanisation unleashed on these people by our media and their own gentle aspirations.
NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews.