This novel by Karen Campbell covers many of the themes I think are worth thinking about. The recent UK referendum reminded me of the book and the essential issues it covered. Set in Glasgow, Scotland (recently shown to be one of the more enlightened parts of the UK) it is the story of Deborah, a woman wanting to find a purpose in life after the death of her husband, and Abdi, a refugee trying to start a new life in a new country with his young daughter.
Deborah trains to be a mentor to new arrivals and Abdi is her first ‘case’. We follow them as they get to know each other and as they both negotiate their respective roles. The more they are together, the more they reveal their pasts and the paths that led them to the same city at the same time.
The novel does not flinch from the realities of working for refugee charities in a climate that is not always welcoming; the fate of a secondary character reminds us that asylum is not always easy to come by.
I enjoyed this novel immensely for the first two thirds but lost enthusiasm in the final section. The book headed towards a ‘happy’ ending and one that tied up loose ends. It may satisfy many people to end the novel in this way but it left me feeling that the realities faced by most refugees are harsher. In any case, bravo to Karen Campbell for writing a novel that tackled difficult questions in a humane way. Novels like this will be needed in this country in the years ahead as we ‘break away’ and show ourselves to be insular Brexiteers.