The Bone Sparrow
by: Zana Fraillon
Genres:Young Adult, Contemporary, Historical Fiction
Format: Mobi (Kindle file) Netgalley
Source: Publisher (via Netgalley)
Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention center after his mother and sister fled the violence of a distant homeland, Subhi has only ever known life behind the fences. But his world is far bigger than that—every night, the magical Night Sea from his mother's stories brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories. And as he grows, his imagination threatens to burst beyond the limits of his containment.The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie—a scruffy, impatient girl who appears on the other side of the wire fence and brings with her a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it herself, she relies on Subhi to unravel her family's love songs and tragedies.Subhi and Jimmie might both find comfort—and maybe even freedom—as their tales unfold. But not until each has been braver than ever before.
Subhi is born in a refugee in an internment camp. He has never seen the outside world. He has no books, no school, and not enough food, water, or clothes.
Every once in a while I stumble on a book that totally takes me by surprise. One that I haven’t heard anything about. A book that you had no idea would be so meaningful, impactful, wonderful, and life changing. One that rips out your heart, and in the process makes you a totally different person. ‘The Bone Sparrow’ is definitely one of those books. I had absolutely no idea what ‘The Bone Sparrow’ was about going in to it. Right before I started reading it, I read over the synopsis, so I had a vague idea that it was about a refuge. I was not at all prepared for the punch that ‘The Bone Sparrow’ gave me.
First thing is that Subhi is only ten years old. Honestly, the story did seem as if it is told by a ten-year old. As the mother of three kids around this age, I am stunned at what Subhi had to endure. Lack of enough food, clothes, water, places to bathe, a school, or even a home (they live in tents) is all part of Subhi’s life. It was all so absolutely heartbreaking. This is especially true when you find out that Subhi was born in the camp ten years ago and has never left. Despite his family being in the camp for ten years, the Australian government has no plans on what to do with them.
Sushi’s story leads you to think, ‘how can this have ever happened’. Then you realize, omg, this isn’t the distant past, this is present day Australia. The fact that Subhi doesn’t know any better and just loves the life he leads, is just gut wrenching.
Subhi makes up for many of the things he is missing in his life (like toys and books) by using his imagination. Every night he imagines a night sea lapping up against the tent flaps. The sea brings creatures and treasures with it. The way that Fraillon describes the Night Sea is so vivid and detailed, that you can actually feel the sea breeze and hear the tide.
Subhi as a character is dead-on with a child his age. He is full of wonder and love and imagination. The character of Subhi’s mother is not always endearing but holds true to what an adult would be going through in her situation. I did also love Subhi’s sister, as she is mean to him at times but truly loves him. I also appreciate that one of the jackets (guards) as Subhi called them, was kind to him. This demonstrates that the guards in the camp are not all stereotypically bad people. Subhi’s relationship with the girl he meets, Jimmie, serves to give Subhi hope and a glance at the outside world. Jimmie has suffered her own tragedy and together her and Subhi form a bond. Each child helps the other move on with their lives.
In many ways, ‘The Bone Sparrow’ reminds me of one of my favorite books of all time, ‘The Storyteller’, by Jodi Picoult. Both books entwine a present day story with an original fairytale. The fairytale captures part of the ordeal that the character in the main story is going through.
Although the ending of, ‘The Bone Sparrow’ did not wrap up as I would have liked, it did give the message that hope can be the greatest gift of all. The theme of ‘The Bone Sparrow’, is a timely topic. It definitely made me rethink how I view refugees. It is a multilayered, timely, and soul-searching read. It is one of the most under hyped books I’ve ever read. Everyone, absolutely everyone, needs to read this book now.