Based on the experiences of real Syrian families, A Dangerous Crossing is all at once heartbreaking, poignant, hopeful, timely and too important to put down.
To be honest, from the beginning I knew this book would be good. Or rather I hoped it. Surely a writer who had the courage to depict the frighteningly real plight of innocent, ordinary families forced from their everyday lives in the hope of living a safe and secure life in Europe, would execute it superbly. Jane Mitchell is that writer.
Endorsed by Amnesty International and published by innovative Irish publisher Little Island, Mitchell explores the lives of the Syrian Shenu family. Composed of parents Baba and Umi, their eldest headstrong daughter Bushra, their young and naive son Aylan and their risk-taking son Ghalib. Their story, inspired by the experiences of actual Syrian families, is moving, upsetting and beautifully crafted. We see their normal life fall to ruin.
“We feel every brutal step they take, their tears roll down our cheeks and their victories feel like ours too.”
One of the strongest parts of A Dangerous Crossing is its wonderful characters. A strong criticism of the mainstream media is the dehumanisation of Syrian migrants and how their lives are depicted as worth less than people from the West. Mitchell battle-axes this, delineating amazingly real, normal characters who truly are just a family who want a better life. How can anyone be sceptical of this? We feel every brutal step they take, their tears roll down our cheeks and their victories feel like ours too. Jane Mitchell’s characters allow the reader to transcend the negative stereotypes projected onto migrants and anyone with an inch of compassion can see things as they truly are.
The action-packed nature of some of A Dangerous Crossing‘s scenes and the breakneck speed of the book itself are what allowed me to devour it within two or three days. The rapid progression of the plot intriguingly mirrors the increasing severity and harshness of the Shenu’s circumstances. As things go on, they find themselves shot at, living in unclean and claustrophobic refugee camps and journeying vast and treacherous oceans. We really feel the loss and sacrifices made by this family all heightened by the fact that it’s inspired by blatantly true events.
“The night is not so black any more. Stars glitter in the western darkness but it pales to grey in the east. Dawn is coming. We will soon see where we have come from and where we are going. The waves still break with foaming tops, the wind still chills damp skin, but with every rolling wave, I see the distant shore. Greece swells to a dark shape on the horizon.”
If I were to say that this book did not make me cry, then I feel as though I had not truly felt the visceral emotions of the novel. I would also be lying. Empathy is the true reason why I feel like this brilliant book should do the rounds in schools or be read to children.
We need to have empathy during this crisis and understand where and what these people are escaping from. Jane Mitchell has crafted not only a beautiful book, but a sort of manifesto for young people about the refugee crisis, to fully understand the extent of what’s occurring. It is my hope that it gets the media coverage and readership that it deserves for more reasons than I have paper to list them on. It is extremely timely and densely political, but beautiful nonetheless.