What We Are Reading Today: ‘The Power of Your Subconscious Mind’

‘Where the Wind Calls Home’: An intimate novel by gifted writer Samar Yazbek 

CHICAGO: Set for publication in February, a 19-year-old Syrian soldier named Ali is laying under a tree, teetering between life and death, and recalling memories in “Where the Wind Calls Home” by gifted novelist and journalist Samar Yazbek. Ali sees a body being lowered into the ground and does not know if it is his funeral or someone else’s. As he deconstructs his life, events from his past cloud his reality, the joys and pains coming back to him in waves. Translated into English by award-winning translator Leri Price, Yazbek’s novel dives into the devastation of war, the beauty of Ali’s traditional Alawite village, and the intimate relationship between him and the landscape around him.  

Ali can feel the sun burning his cheek as he tries to recall his life and what led him to this moment. He can remember something about a bomb as he watches the clouds that remind him of the ones in his childhood.  But these are different and he is atop a different mountain than the one on which he lived. In his village, he had a brother who was also a soldier but had died. Both boys, along with their father, had been laborers on a tobacco farm before volunteering for the army. Most of the boys in the village followed their path, many were lost and many families were left broken. Politics have always ruled Ali’s life, as has tragedy, burying family member after family member.  

Yazbek’s well-paced and intimate novel reveals the traumas of war and being a soldier. Life does not stop during war or political strife and his mother Nahla, has always protected Ali from everything and everyone as the country mourns the loss of the president and then celebrates the accension of his son in his place. 

This poetic novel explores life in Ali’s Alawite village, as well as the character’s powerful relationship with his home, where he feels as deep rooted as the trees.  

Yazbek’s previous novels include “Child of Heaven,” “Clay,” “Cinnamon,” and “In Her Mirrors” while the author’s nonfiction body of work includes her accounts of the Syrian conflict, “A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution” and “The Crossing: My Journey to the Shattered Heart of Syria.”  

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