Dark at the Crossing by Elliot Ackerman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was the only book from the National Book Award finalists for novel that I hadn't tried, so I sat and read this book this afternoon. It is about a man Haris, who is from Iraq, has achieved US citizenship, but is now trying to get into Syria from Turkey to fight against the regime. He ends up living along the border with refugees, where the story unfolds.
I feel like so much of the motivation of the main characters is never explained. Why would a person who has done everything to leave go fight against a regime that isn't impacting his own family? He is not particularly religious or zealous about anything.
On the other hand, there are some minor characters in the novel that really pop - Jim, who led the interrogations for the US army that Haris translated into English (in his past) and Marty, the American man-child who is starting an ice hockey team in the new Turkish settlement on the border. I was trying to figure out why these characters who are really only mentioned a few times felt like they had so much more energy than the characters filling more of the novel. It turns out the author served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he really had a grasp of how Americans living overseas, whether in the military or as contractors or entrepreneuers, would act and why. I'm not sure he really has drilled down to the same levels for the refugees and immigrants in this novel, and that is why I don't think it has as great of an impact as it could otherwise.
There is some commentary on war and grief that I found worth reading, such as, "...The fighting doesn't go on because of ideas. It goes on because of loss. If I was robbed of my daughter, I would be lost from this world. I'd take up arms and fight like a dead man alive, killing until I was killed."
(view spoiler)[It also has a similar arc to a foreign film where everyone dies and it's just a matter of when, and in this case I was really left wondering why I had bothered with the stories to start with. (hide spoiler)]
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