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The Book of Jonas Hardcover – March 15, 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Rich with symbolism, marvelously descriptive in language...Dau's novel offers deeply resonating truths about war and culture, about family and loss that only art can reveal. A literary tour de force." -- Kirkus (starred review)

"The toll that war exacts has seldom been demonstrated more vividly in fiction than in this tale... An essential addition to the literature of war." -- Booklist  (starred review)


A Kirkus Reviews “Best of 2012” fiction selection
A School Library Journal “Best of 2012” Adult fiction for Teens selection
A Top-Ten favorite book of 2012 from Sam Sacks of The Wall Street Journal
A Booklist  Editor's Choice: Best Adult Books for Young Adults, 2012
 
"Dau sketches Jonas brilliantly, empathetically, writing with spare, clear language in the third person, a point of view encompassing the distance necessary for emotional clarity. Rich with symbolism, marvelously descriptive in language... Dau's novel offers deeply resonating truths about war and culture, about family and loss that only art can reveal. A literary tour de force."
- Kirkus Reviews (starred)
 
"A sobering and accomplished read meant to prick the conscience; highly recommended."
- Library Journal
 
"Intriguing characters reveal the effects of war on both victim and victimizer, and raise important questions about the emotional implications of modern warfare."
- Publishers Weekly
 
"The toll that war exacts has seldom been demonstrated more vividly in fiction than in this tale...With its spare prose and nuanced plot that loops back and forth chronologically, Dau's first novel is an absolutely compelling account of the damage done to all sides by armed conflict. An essential addition to the literature of war."
- Booklist
 
"Stephen Dau writes with remarkable precision, vitality and honesty."
- Steven Galloway, author of The Cellist of Sarajevo
 
“This is first rate, original, powerful storytelling.”
- Jean Thompson, National Book Award finalist and author of The Year We Left Home
 
“This is an utterly riveting debut.”
- Marisa Silver, author of The God of War
 
"The artfully crafted story zeroes in on those seconds when decisions are made, sometimes with terrifying consequences."
- Kathleen Daley, The Star Ledger (New Jersey)
 
“Dau does a beautiful job of creating tales shrouded in mystery, filled with pain and suffering … A modern, Citizen Kane like morality play about war, death, ordinary people, hope and forgiveness."
- Shelf Awareness
 
“[S]pare prose...enhances the remarkably meager body of 21st-century wartime literature and identifies Pittsburgh as a site of divine intervention....the embodiment of truth and a symbol of human frailty; a record of war, a labor of love, and a tangible connection to lost ideals.”
- Sandra Levis, Pittsburgh Quarterly
 
“A humane and unforgettable portrayal of the lives behind those casualty counts … Dau beautifully addresses a need to emotionally engage with a war that has been going on for 10 years but that so often feels remote and unreal … It is the first [novel of 2012] to feel genuinely important.
- Wall Street Journal
 
“Everything's a shock to the system for Jonas, a teenager from an unnamed Central Asian country, when he's granted asylum in the U.S. His struggles to assimilate and come to terms with his life -- and the American soldier who saved it -- make a story that could have been spun from yesterday's headlines.  But in Stephen Dau's careful hands, it touches the deepest truths of loss and healing.”
- Barnes & Noble
 
“Dau creates a disturbing portrayal of war as it destroys ideals and innocence and makes victims of civilians and soldiers alike. The novel is composed in a way that’s similar to how a painter creates with watercolors: with delicate, barely substantive layers that blend together to reveal depth, nuance, and meaning … Dau demonstrates the tragic paradoxes of war in this brilliant and deceptively simple novel that will provide ample discussion for high school classes studying Middle East conflicts.”
- School Library Journal
 
“In moments, Dau’s riffs on the young man’s life recall the dense beauty of Michael Ondaatje’s “The English Patient.’’ Like that book, [The Book of Jonas] is a tale obsessed with the way war can fracture memory and cauterize the place where love can begin....If only our news had such radical belief in the power of empathy.”
- John Freeman, The Boston Globe

About the Author

Stephen Dau is from Western Pennsylvania and lives in Brussels. He worked for ten years in post-war reconstruction and international development prior to studying creative writing, at Johns Hopkins University and Bennington, where he received an MFA. His work has appeared in McSweeney's, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, on MSNBC, and elsewhere. The Book of Jonas is his first novel.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Blue Rider Press; 1 edition (March 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1203026285
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399158452
  • ASIN: 0399158456
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,483,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen Dau is from Western Pennsylvania and lives in Brussels. He worked for ten years in post-war reconstruction and international development prior to studying creative writing, at Johns Hopkins University and Bennington, where he received an MFA. His work has appeared in McSweeney's, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, on MSNBC, and elsewhere. The Book of Jonas is his first novel. Visit him at www.stephendau.com

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Fifteen year old Jonas is sent to America after his village is attacked and his family killed in the Middle East. Adjusting to his new life is challenging to say the least and he is required to see a therapist when it is apparent that things aren't going well. In an attempt to heal he meets the mother of the U.S. Soldier that saved his life and he starts to open up about what really happened when his village was attacked. Secrets that Jonas has struggled with and protected for years suffocate the details that he will share.
This is one of those stories that will stay with me forever. As a military wife I read this with open eyes about war and what it does to people, so I was surprised by the accuracy because usually people overdo it and get it wrong. Jonas' character was so rich and clear that I felt like I knew him and I could easily sympathize with him. The emotion of the story was so realistic that I felt this story just as much as I read it, which doesn't happen as much as I would like. Needless to say, this was a hard one to put down even when I read the last page. I will not be able to recommend this one enough.
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Format: Hardcover
A less sophisticated author might have told a one-note story in which an immigrant's war experiences, relocation to another country and his encounters with discrimination and ignorance cause anger and alienation. While Stephen Dau's novel, THE BOOK OF JONAS, contains a few such moments, is distinguished by its portrayal of the inner struggles of two characters, one American and a second (who's country of origin is never spelled out but is presumed to be Iraq) and the resolution of these inner conflicts. Both characters, Yoonis (Jonas) and Christopher experience on-going and unrelenting feelings of guilt about the acts they have committed and each, in his way, seeks some level of forgiveness.

The book progresses as if it were a funeral mass with sections bearing headings such as "Processional" "Remembrance", "Communion", "Confession", "Atonement", "Benediction" and "Recessional". The narrative presents a piercing and astute indictment of war and the mutual distrust and suspicion between different cultures that result in irrevocable and often deadly decisions.

My one criticism is the flow of the chapters with the jumps back and forth in time as Jonas "recalls" things from his past. I initially found this disconcerting, but finally grew used to it as I became more invested in the story. 3 1/2 stars
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Format: Hardcover
I'm not quite sure how to describe this book. It is about a young boy who survived a military raid on his hometown. The boy was helped by a soldier named Christopher, and then sent to America, where he lived with a foster family. The book shows his point of view through sessions with his therapist and scenes showing his life in America. The book also has diary entries of Christopher, as he participates in the military raid on Jonas' hometown. Towards the end of the book it also shows Rose, Christopher's mother, who has dedicated her life to helping military families and finding out why her son never returned home.

I couldn't put this book down. I found it fascinating and extremely enjoyable to read about. The ending shocked me, yet looking back it shouldn't have. Overall, I highly recommend this book.
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Format: Audible Audio Edition
The Book of Jonas, is an often painful story, about the trauma left behind in the aftermath of war. The war, presumed to the Iraq war, is subject of this debut novel.

Younis, is a teenage Muslim boy who survives, when his village is destroyed, and his family killed in a military operation that did not go as planned. An orphan, he is sent to the US (Pittsburgh) to live with an American family, and his name is changed to Jonas. He's very very smart, but finding it hard to adjust to his new life. Sick of being picked on in school, Jonas eventually retaliates. To help him with his anger issues, he is sent to a therapist, and ever so slowly, bit by bit, pieces of his painful past begin to emerge.

Jonas uses alcohol as a way of helping him deal with the nightmares from his past and the horrors of the war. However, he is not the only one affected by the war. Chris Henderson is an American soldier serving in the Army in Iraq at the same time whose life intersects with Jonas. He is a soldier who feels deep remorse for what he has been a party to. He ultimately is the one who saved Jonas' life, but then he goes missing. Through the soldier's diary entries the reader learns what Chris has experienced and that he is no doubt suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The ending is one that I did not anticipate.

Although it is at times a gut-wrenching read, the story gives the reader a good look at the tragic consequences of both sides of war. I was happy I listened to this book, Simon Vance did a great job as narrator, even though it was a little tough to follow at times because the story went back and forth in time. Despite this it's and audio book that is recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
I consider The Book of Jonas no less than a stunning, masterful piece of work. It's hard to believe that it's a debut novel. Stephen Dau is able to weave together a compassionate picture of the many victims of war and how their lives intersect regardless of geological location, nationality, religion, gender or age. I do not profess to be a reader of "war stories," and generally stay clear of violence in my reading. This book deserves far better than to be pigeon holed into any simplistic category. It is far too sensitive. It stretches the reader to think outside the box. The beauty and symbolism throughout took my breath away. For the first time in many years, I have bought multiple copies of a book to give friends.
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