By Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar
August 31, 2018
An Athenaeum Book Club pick.
‘The winter before Baba went into the earth, he never missed a bedtime story. Baba made my favourite one, the story of the mapmaker’s apprentice, last two whole months. Mama listened at the door, getting Baba a glass of water when he got hoarse. When he lost his voice, I told the ending. Then the story was ours…’
Nour has lost her father. She has also lost the place where she was born and now lives in the Syrian city of Horms, along with her sisters and mother. And so, by the fig tree in the garden, Nour whispers the stories her Baba once told her, so that the roots of the tree will carry those stories back to where her father is buried and he won’t feel so alone. Her favourite is the story of Rawiya, a young girl from the twelfth century who left her home in search of adventure, dressed as a boy.
But Syria is changing and it isn’t long before protests and shelling destroy the peace of the city. As Nour begins her own journey as a refugee, she draws strength and inspiration from the voyage of Rawiya, who became apprenticed to the famous mapmaker, al-Idrisi, and who battled mythical creatures and endured epic battles in the attempt to compile the most accurate map of the world ever made.