Title: The Beekeeper of Aleppo

Author: Christy Lefteri

Publisher: Zaffre (UK) 2019

The author

Christy Lefteri is the daughter of Cypriot refugees. She lives in London and has worked as a volunteer for refugee organisations. Christy has a PhD in creative writing and is the author of three novels. The Beekeeper of Aleppo is her second book.

The book

Nuri, a beekeeper, and his artist wife, Afra, are the main protagonists. They represent thousands of refugees who flee daily from wartorn countries across the world. In order to reach safety and the possibility of a life free from personal threat, Afra and Nuri endure a journey of constant uncertainty in their quest to arrive in England, their chosen country of freedom.

The couple carry trauma, grief and, sometimes, hopelessness after fleeing Syria, their home country. They leave behind their former life and their young son, Sami, who was killed in their backyard by a bomb blast which also rendered Afra blind. The vivid memories and tremendous love for Sami remain with them. Their grief is profound — their loss almost unbearable as their journey takes them to Istanbul, Leros, Athens and finally to London.

This book is heartbreaking, and yet the thread of hope that weaves throughout the story and the human interactions of love and desperation are enough to hold the reader close. The countless side stories about people that Nuri and Afra encounter along the way demonstrate the reality of people’s lives as they flee persecution.

Watch: Christy Lefteri in conversation with Esmeraldo Santiago about The Beekeeper of Aleppo

at youtube, via the aspen institute

Nuri and Afra provide a lens into lived trauma, untreated and endured under extreme circumstances — the story illustrates that human survival depends on many aspects. Often, it’s luck, sometimes it’s the need to manipulate, to stay grounded, to remain hopeful when all seems hopeless, and to hold onto a belief in the future. But most of all, it’s endurance.

Christy Lefteri has written a beautiful but sad and confronting account of the refugee journey and takes the reader into challenging territory. But the power of the writing allows the experience to be understood with compassion, empathy and admiration.

Reviewed by: Heather Whitford Roche

Ballarat Writers Inc. Review Group, September 2021