ESCAPE FROM ALEPPO, by N. H. Senzai, Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, Jan. 2, 2018, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
It’s not often I find a book that I read through cover-to-cover in one sitting, but in the case of Escape From Aleppo, by N.H. Senzai, I couldn’t help myself.
Escape From Aleppo opens in the early hours of Oct. 9, 2013. Nadia’s family has been planning their escape from Aleppo, Syria, but their exit window just moved up. Nadia awakes to her cousin prodding her out of bed. Bombing has returned to their neighborhood, and they have to leave immediately.
Having been injured by shrapnel earlier, Nadia is fearful of leaving her home. She wavers in her doorway, and gets left behind in the process. Her family’s apartment building is hit, and Nadia finds refuge under an old Jeep. When she comes to, her family is gone. With such a short window of opportunity, they have to move on.
But there’s still hope for Nadia. She knows where her family was heading. If she can move fast enough, she may be able to catch up with them at the rendezvous point before they leave Aleppo.
Escape From Aleppo takes place on two different points on the timeline — October 2013 and the time before the planned escape. While 2013 pulses with immediacy, the “time before,” starting in December 2010 has a hazy almost-softness to it. Both treatments serve to enhance the other, creating a dynamic that is both riveting and heart breaking.
While Escape From Aleppo is intended for middle-graders (ages 8-12), it truly is a book for all ages. N.H. Senzai, also known for Shooting Kabul, spent some of her youth living in Saudi Arabia and has lived and traveled in the Middle East with her husband, who teaches Middle East politics. Her knowledge, along with extensive research brings an authenticity to her writing that resonates across all ages.
I finished Escape From Aleppo humbled and edified. Nadia’s story left me emotionally raw. It also left me with a greater understanding of the events leading up to the Arab Spring and the complicated dynamics throughout the region.
I highly recommend Escape From Aleppo, especially as a family read. I know I personally would want to read it with my daughter so that we could discuss it together.