FICTION

The Beekeeper of Aleppo

Ballantine. Aug. 2019. 304p. ISBN 9781984821218. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780593128169. F
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DEBUT The London-raised daughter of Cypriot refugees, Lefteri was inspired to write this first novel after working at a UNICEF-supported refugee center in Athens. In fluid, forthright language, she brings us humbly closer to the refugee experience as beekeeper Nuri and his wife, an artist named Afra who has gone blind from the horrors she’s witnessed, escape Aleppo and travel riskily through Turkey and Greece and on to the UK, where Nuri’s cousin Mustafa has established an apiary and is training other refugees to tend bees. Afra doesn’t want to leave the very soil where they have lost their son, but it’s too dangerous to stay. “If they see me again, and I don’t join them, they’ll kill me. They said I should find someone to take my body,” says Nuri persuasively. Along the way, they suffer violence and disillusionment, and if their new life is bittersweet, it brings them family, friends, and a glimmer of hope.
VERDICT As Lefteri particularizes the terrible plight of refugees today, there’s no overloading the deck with drama; this story tells itself, absorbingly and heartrendingly. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 2/18/19.]

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