November 01, 2016
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Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention center after his mother and sister fled the violence of a distant homeland, Subhi has only ever known life behind the fences. But his world is far bigger than that—every night, the magical Night Sea from his mother's stories brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories. And as he grows, his imagination threatens to burst beyond the limits of his containment.There is something I especially love about books when you know that they have the exact right person/character as narrator. Not only are they the right person, but they're in the correct location, at the right point in their lives. They are also, clearly, the only person able to best tell this story - the character's story but also that of their whole world - to readers. That was most definitely the case with Subhi and The Bone Sparrow.
The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie—a scruffy, impatient girl who appears on the other side of the wire fence and brings with her a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it herself, she relies on Subhi to unravel her family's love songs and tragedies.
Subhi and Jimmie might both find comfort—and maybe even freedom—as their tales unfold. But not until each has been braver than ever before.
Whether its' an old TV show ("Kids Say the Darndest Things") or the bible, ("Out of the mouth of babes.") it has long been acknowledged that children see things differently than adults. The author uses that fact to full advantage in The Bone Sparrow. Subhi was born in the detention center and lived every day of his life there; it is all he knows. It's his normal.
So, he has a certain amount of naivete and acceptance of what life there is like that lets him show it to readers in a way that is more jarring for how commonplace it seems to him. What they eat, how much water they have, just how well acquainted hi is with the rats, who does or doesn't have shoes, roaches in your ear, and dozens of other things. To Subhi this is life. To readers and to those in the detention center who remember life before, outside of it, they are more demeaning, inhumane and hard to tolerate.
It is how it really is his norm and how he can just include little pieces of information in his story that really make them stand out and make him and the story memorable.
I loved Jimmie's addition to the story. Her life is not perfect or terribly easy, either and provides some interesting contrast to Subhi, him family and life. I liked her character, her determination, her grief, and how she was trying to handle all of it, often on her own. What they two characters brought out in each other was fabulous. It was very nice how their story happened but didn't seem out of place and didn't detract from (or somehow seem disconnected) from Subhi's life in the camp.
The Bone Sparrow is an enlightening, sweet, heartbreaking, magical and incredibly memorable tale that is highly recommended.