American or Bosnian? The truth was, he felt neither completely one nor the other.
During the Bosnian war, Young Amir sees his family murdered. The Solace of Trees is where he finds shelter, hiding in the forest deaf and mute, all alone, suffering from severe shock. Nowhere is safe for him, a boy of Muslim heritage though he finds a sort of brotherhood in Josif. Together they step into further danger and Amir finds himself at a UN camp unable to communicate. Through art therapy, pictures- a therapist is able to extract a story from the young orphan. Pia finally has his name, so maybe she can make sense of where he belongs and can locate his family! But her hopes are crushed, only to discover the boy escaped a slaughter. Suffer the children, what sense can she make of what is in the children’s eyes? Pia is horrified by the pain and terror, defeat she sees in the eyes of grown men but to know a child lived through unimaginable horrors is unconscionable. His salvation is to live in America, a place foreign to a boy who has survived a war-torn existence. Amir is numb and has no idea what awaits him on the other side of the globe. This numbness remains, but with foster parents The Thorenson family in America he learns to sign and is met with patience. His future has felt for so long directionless, chaotic. Why silence embraced him he assumes is due to the explosions but in truth, it may well be trauma, grief and the horror of what he experienced, what no child ever should. Where will he go next, what does it matter to someone who has been wandering, anchored by nothing, haunted by horrors?
Dreams, memories haunt his sleeping nights… but now with Margaret Morgan, a retired professor, he is slowly feeling human again. Morgan is about to make a decision that will change both of their lives. Margaret fosters the young boy, through trying times, home-schooling, and joy she feels in their solitude she knows she must push him to become a part of the larger world. His treks into the woods, forests are a part of Amir’s nature, one that keeps him connected to his past, a world he shares with Margaret. Through her love, he finds strength but Amir gives as much to Margaret.
The future is open to him with film documentaries, a way for Amir to understand his past. In college he finds love but when he works on Dr. Ashrawi’s documentary and 9/11 happens everything spirals and the professor is in trouble for his connections to terrorist groups. When he returns to Bosnia with his girlfriend, the terror he thought was long buried returns, his involvement with the professor may be what leads him back to the horror and darkness he left behind. He was saved once, but can he escape again? Is there a reason to hope?
I always do a lot of soul-searching after reading about war torn countries and orphaned children of such atrocities. It’s never something people living in a free world can ever comprehend, we can watch as many movies and read as many books as we can get our hands on but it’s not the same thing. However, this novel attempts to share the experience through Amir’s eyes. To say it’s heartbreaking seems to minimize the reality non-fictional children live and breathe, so I will just say this is a sobering read, one that stays with you.
Publication Date: July 17, 2017
New Europe Books