A Dangerous Crossing by Jane Mitchell
Ghalib doesn’t want to leave his home. But Syria has become too dangerous, and his family has no choice but to flee. Together they start out on a terrible journey that leads them through dark and dangerous places. Ghalib comes under fire, is caught in a tear-gas attack, experiences the wretched and hopeless life of a refugee camp, and he still has to face the perils of a voyage in a boat that is far from seaworthy.
Ghalib lives in war-torn Syria with his older sister Bushra, younger disabled brother Aylan and his parents, Baba and Umi and grandmother, Tata. They are part of a tight-knit community but increasingly it becomes clear that they can no longer ignore the ever growing danger caused by the war. Air strikes and explosions are part of their everyday lives and when Ghalib is injured, nearly killed in a barrel bomb attack, it is the final straw for Baba and Umi. This, coupled with the hint that their daughter may soon join the army to fight, spurs them on to leave, taking little with them other than the clothes on their backs and gold jewellery with which to barter. Weighed down with an elderly grandmother and little Aylan, who only just manages to keep up, the journey is slow and fraught with peril.
Ghalib does what he can to help and be brave, but as they get further from home it is clear there is a long, hazardous road ahead. Escaping a near miss under sniper fire; finding food and water and surviving explosions are just some of the challenges they face. At the border, Ghalib becomes separated from his family and has to fend for himself, coping with his injuries alone and not knowing who to trust. His journey becomes even more fraught but he finds safety of sorts in a refugee camp. It is only the appearance of his refugee friend Safaa and her brother Amin that keeps his hopes alive and once reunited with his family, the final, most perilous part of their journey draws near.
A Dangerous Crossing puts into words the horrendous events many Syrians just like Ghalib are going through even as I write this review. Where do you begin to describe the absolute devastation and human suffering? It’s hard to imagine how it must feel to experience a war, let alone have to leave your home, your possessions, your friends, everything you’ve ever known, to escape. And escape to what? An unknown future where you could be killed, turned away, starve, lose yourself completely. This book opens the reader’s eyes to the plight of the Syrian refugees and shows us exactly how it might feel, what could happen and perhaps most importantly, how the human spirit survives even in the most dire of circumstances.
The narrative explores so many things: family relationships and how they change under such pressures; friendships across ethnicity; the degrading treatment of refugees; the extreme kindness of those who want to help; the dangers refugee children face; loss of loved ones; human exploitation; the absolute terror of war and desperation of those wanting to escape it. Central to all this is the love and hope that can be found even in the face of death and destruction, when there is no time to grieve and no telling what the future holds.
I defy anyone not look at the news reports with different eyes after reading this book. A Dangerous Crossing is well written, with a strong cast of characters and good balance of action with more emotional scenes to suit all readers. It would be a great book to use as a class reader in schools for children aged 9+, to explore the refugee crisis and prompt discussion and understanding, as well as all important empathy.
Thank you to Little Island for sending me this book to review.