One of the magical qualities of books is the ability to transport you to another world, another time and another place. No matter the stresses of your life, a book means you are about to enter an entirely new realm — a place of escape, of entertainment and of learning.
This is why I am an avid reader.
Which makes my recent selection of The Beekeeper of Aleppo a somewhat strange choice for me. I didn’t go in search of this novel. Instead, it found me. This is a story of sadness, heartbreak and hope. A story of fiction, but one rooted in a tragic reality, the devastating destruction of Aleppo, Syria in 2016, and the impact on some of those who survived it.
If you’re like me, you probably know very little about Aleppo, even though it’s one of the oldest cities in the world. Author Christy Lefteri brilliantly captures the small moments that define the life of our protagonist, Nuri. Soaking in the scent of jasmine in the courtyard, mesmerized by the dances of the trees in the dusty winds of summer, reveling in the order and wonder of his beloved beehives he tended on the outskirts of town.
But this is not a book about the buzzing energy of the bazaars and the alluring smell of lamb braising in garlic, oil and spices. This book is more of a punch in the gut, though with a humanizing quality that draws you in. It’s not about glorifying the courage of men and women, but rather opening our eyes to the randomness of life. It shows the tender mixed with the cruel and the struggle for survival among immigrants who not only must escape from their own homes, but also outwit those who prey on those who have the least to give.
One of the themes that resonated so strongly throughout this book was the appreciation for things lost – a reminder that it’s easy in life to take the daily miracles for granted. Another was the basic importance of human connection, whether to soothe one’s soul in the darkest of times, to offer hope or just to be there to make the journey a little easier.
There is a bit of irony reading this book in 2022. Reading about the Russian role in the destruction of Aleppo, one couldn’t help but be dragged right to the headlines about Ukraine. But not in a way that made me think about political consequences, but instead of the people impacted — the human consequences of the war games played by small men in high places.
If you are a person of compassion or someone who has perhaps unintentionally forgotten the fundamental importance of compassion, this book will awaken something inside of you. At least, that is my hope for you. And that is my hope for all of those who have taken the journey of The Beekeeper of Aleppo.