This middle grade novel captures the immigrant experience far better than most books I’ve read in recent times. Without gory details, we are able to relate to the trauma of war, the feeling of irreconcilable loss, the agony of being homeless.
Welcome to Nowhere is the story of a twelve year old boy called Omar living in the Syrian town of Bosra with his family.
The thoughts occupying Omar’s head are what you would expect from any twelve year old; squabbling with siblings, surviving schools and hustling to earn pocket money.
That’s is until the deafening sirens of war fill the air. And then nothing remains the same.
The story follows Omar’s family as they move from place to place to seek refuge and eventually make their way out of war-torn Syria. I liked the clear crisp style of writing and the steady pace of the story. The writer does a good job depicting the emotions of a young boy caught up in a civil war and conflicting emotions within the household. We can’t help but root for this young boy, who shoulders the responsibility of keeping his physically disabled older brother safe, and his little brother out of trouble, and run errands for the rest of the clan.
Although, I wouldn’t hold it against the author, but the characters are a bit stereotypical. The father is an authoritarian figure who doesn’t support his daughter’s education and wants her married off to an old man. He supports the regime and is in denial of its complicity. The mother is initially depicted as a push-over. Her character does take a full swing of the arc, as she asserts herself in the end.
Welcome to Nowhere by Elizabeth Laird
There are ignorant remarks about God abandoning people and prayers not getting answered.
Violence: Although the story talks about brutality of war, it’s not agonizing or dark. It is not a traumatic read for the young audience and if it was not for the mention of rape, I would have recommended it for 8+.