“Debut novelist Joukhadar gracefully balances the gritty, often horrific truth of the refugee’s plight with the lyrical near-fairy tale she has created…”


Rawiya is a teenaged girl who lived around the turn of the 11th century. Leaving her widowed mother, she disguised herself as a boy and signed on as an apprentice to a master map maker. With him she travelled to the old kingdoms bordering the Mediterranean Sea, to The Levant and beyond, all the time not only learning the art, but also absorbing all she could about the inhabitants of those lands, their culture, history and legends.

800 years later, in present-day Syria, Nour and her family are fleeing that war-torn country. Their flight to safety takes them to almost the same places that Rawiya travelled through all those years ago. Nour recognizes all these places because of the stories her father told her about Rawiya. The two girls’ lives coincide in many ways.

Being a man I would have preferred less tears and maybe a macho male hero, but all in all I give the author a B+. Learning the old Arabic names for those countries, cities, lost cities, lost tribes and the stars and constellations was a big plus.


Reviewed by:

Brian Vittachi

Added 17th June 2019