4 out of 4 stars
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Sabah Faraj Putrus and Jalal Al-Anee are 12th-grade students at Al-Mutamyazin Secondary School in Mosul, Iraq. After they graduate, they both plan to enroll at Mosul University’s School of Medicine. One day, Sabah overhears a private conversation between Mahmood Al-Rawee, his geometry teacher, and Deputy Chief of Police Abdul Kadir Al-Anee, Jalal’s father. Blackmailed by the latter, the teacher agrees to raise Jalal’s grade. When Sabah is caught eavesdropping, he knows he is in big trouble. What follows is a life-long saga of Russian roulette encounters between Sabah and Jalal.
The Americans’ arrival plunges the country into chaos. When his uncle’s house in Baghdad can no longer be their refuge, Sabah has no other choice but to flee from Iraq and pursue his medical ambitions in America. His journey does not stop there, though. He will work for Doctors Without Borders (DWB) in war-torn Syria and King Hussein’s General Hospital in Amman, Jordan. In his private life, he oscillates between Jane Kilgore, his former university girlfriend, and Hamdia Qubbani, a Syrian refugee with an impressive life story.
Refugee on a Pendulum by Jemil Metti is a political espionage thriller filled with action and suspense. Published by Outskirts Press in August 2021, the novel poignantly describes the dramatic consequences of military, religious, and political turmoil on the lives of ordinary people. It abounds in staggering images like the American soldiers’ futile attempts to keep order on the streets of Baghdad, the abusive arrests and torture endured by Iraqi prisoners, the bombings in Syria, or the terrifying atmosphere in ISIS camps. At 244 pages, it is a quick read because of its intense scenes and lively dialogues.
From the third-person narrative perspective, the book closely follows the personal and professional development of Sabah Faraj Putrus. He is by far the most complex character in the novel. Through hard work and perseverance, he finishes his pediatric and orthopedic studies and does not hesitate to practice medicine in a war zone. I admired him for his commitment to his profession and his determination to help people, irrespective of their political ideology or religious affiliation. At times, he is excessively naïve in his unwavering trust in people’s good intentions; hence, he often becomes the victim of his former colleague Jalal or CIA operative, Robert Miller.
There are strong female characters too. One of them is Jane Kilgore, an American doctor suspected of changing sides to ISIS. Her remarkable personality is not seen with good eyes by Sabah’s father, Salwan, who would have liked his son to marry his third cousin. The other female protagonist is Hamdia Qubbani, a Syrian refugee whose life story ends in the newspapers and turns into an example of survival. In fact, what I liked most about the book is that it raises awareness of the refugees’ fate and their struggle to integrate into a completely different cultural environment.
I am rating Refugee on a Pendulum by Jemil Metti 4 out of 4 stars. It has a solid plot and complex characters. The editing is also good since I only noticed a few minor punctuation mistakes. There are some profane words in tune with certain scenes in the book. The violent scenes are realistic but not gruesome. For me, there was no aspect I could pin down as disturbing or inconvenient. I recommend the book to fans of political thrillers and spy novels interested in Middle Eastern conflicts.
Refugee On a Pendulum
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