The Beekeeper of Aleppo

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 29 Oct 2019

Member Reviews

“People are not like bees. We do not work together, we have no real sense of a greater good--I’ve come to realize this now.” - Mustafa, p. 85

Nuri, a beekeeper, and Afra, an artist, live a peaceful life in Aleppo with their son Sami. Then protests and war come to Aleppo. Nuri's cousin Mustafa, who encouraged Nuri to start beekeeping, flees to England to be with his daughter and wife, but Nuri and Afra do not want to leave their beloved Aleppo. When tragedy strikes the family and Afra becomes blind, they decide to make the difficult journey from Syria to England. Along the way we encounter, Mohammed, a young boy who keeps Nuri hopeful and determined to get to England. 

While this is a fictional novel, it is incredibly powerful, and I imagine fairly accurate. Christy Lefteri, who is the child of refugees and has worked with refugees through volunteering with UNICEF, effortlessly blended Nuri and Afra's journey as refugees with their life in Aleppo through flashbacks and unique transitions between chapters. At times it is haunting and difficult to read, but it provides us with an understanding of the difficulty refugees face when fleeing their country. However, it is also hopeful at times, as we see that sometimes Mustafa is wrong. People can be like bees. They can help each other and see a greater good in the world.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley via the publisher and from a Goodreads Giveaway.
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This story was a journey- an emotional one that takes the reader deep into a world that you may not know much about and from the perspective of Nuri, a beekeeper in Aleppo, Syria.  This story of loss, love is beautiful and relevant and a must read!
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This is a beautifully written story of a family, who had lived a wonderful life in Syria before the war tore everything apart, from structures to lives, to families, to hopes and dreams.
We follow a couple Nuri who was a beekeeper in Aleppo and his wife Afra, who is a talented artist, who had loved this beautiful city until it was taken from them along with everything they cared about. Afra lost her sight from what she had seen and they finally decide it is time to leave and try to get to England, where Mustafa, Nuri's cousin and business partner had already gone.
This story shows us the hardships not only of  the difficult travel to reach a safer place, but also the mental strain from the haunting memories of what they had left behind.  Waiting in the refugee camps, hoping to find a way to travel closer to their destination and the things and people they met on there journey were often very hard and sad to witness.
The author who worked in some of those camps in Greece, was able to give us a real view of what is was like to be a refugee, as she used some of the stories she had heard to compose her story.
I will have to check out more books by this author.
I would like to thank NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine for the ARC of this book.
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What a hauntingly beautiful story that is written so well. This is a story that will stay with me for some time. I admit that I do not know enough about the situation in Syrian. At times, I wished the story gave more information about the situation. 

The author was clever in ending some chapters with a word that started the next chapter. I do wish that the chapters had been labeled. The story was told in alternating time periods and places. So at times I was confused where and when the chapters were. 

4.5 stars
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Obviously a book about Syrian refugees is going to be a depressing read but it was so predictable and so much foreshadowing it really got bogged down. I felt like I already knew every part of this book before I read it. And he was more the Beekeeper of Aleppo's assistant, which is somehow more depressing.
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According to Christy Lefteri, the question she asks in her novel is this.  What does it mean to see?  Afra, an artist and the wife of the beekeeper, is blind.  Is it because her eyes are damaged or because she does not want to see any more than she has already seen?  Nuri, the beekeeper, sees a small child called Mohammed.  Does this child exist or does Nuri want to see him, need to see him?  When do we see what is there to be seen, and when are we blind?

As soon as I began to read, my question was this:  Who is Christy Lefteri, and how does she know so much about Syria, the Syrian people, the culture and its refugees?  Is she Syrian?  No, she isn’t, but this talented writer must also be a magician because I was transported, a rare and profound experience.  As she explains in the Author’s Note, Ms. Lefteri worked as a volunteer at a UNICEF refugee center in Greece – absorbing faces, stories, mental images of Syrian and Afghani refugees.  Back in the UK between stints, she engaged a Syrian tutor to teach her Arabic, and this young man also served to verify authenticity as she wrote this fine book.  OK, that’s the background, the good practical answer, but it doesn’t explain the magic.

But bees are magic, aren’t they?  Must be.  Bees turn pollen into honey.  Somehow they build perfectly uniform cells in which to store honey and raise their young.  They communicate without words, cooperate, sacrifice and live peacefully within the hive.  Oh, wow, magic.  We can’t do any of that, and we’re humans.  In a once peaceful Syria, Nuri and his cousin Mustafa, a scientist, kept bees that could do all these magic things, but it is not peaceful now and the bees have died.  Mustafa sends his wife and daughter to safety in the UK and soon joins them, but Nuri and Afra stay behind amid increasing fear and destruction.  Mustafa begs Nuri to come to the UK where they can start again with the bees they love, and, at last, Nuri and Afra join thousands and thousands of refugees making their way out of the Middle East and across Europe.  Hoping, despairing, giving up, hoping.  No guarantees.

Something powerful going on with those bees.  Is the Universe calling on Line One?  So many bee-themed books in recent years, don’t you think?  And here’s another one……...that you should read.  Doesn’t matter how many bee books there are.  This one.

Full Disclosure:  A review copy of this book was provided to me by Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine / Ballantine Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I would like to thank the publisher, the author and NetGalley for providing me this opportunity.  All opinions expressed herein are my own.
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This book is hard to review due to the fact that I was pulled into caring about the characters but the tone left me feeling very depressed. Nuri and his wife Afra are refugees of Syria on trying to get to Europe. They've lost their son to a bomb and both have PTSD. Nuri's memories of the bees were some of my favorite parts and provided glimpses of what was once beautiful and heartfelt for him which was a welcome respite from all the sadness and heartbreak. The author's writing is thoughtful and insightful. In the end, while this was a haunting story I'm glad I read it
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I have to say that I have been shocked at all of the 4 and 5 star ratings for this book.  In fact, because of the hype it was receiving, I intentionally requested an ARC from NetGalley.  Needless to say, I was disappointed.  I felt like this was such a disjointed read and the story did not flow easily.

I appreciate the fact that I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.  I hate it when I am disappointed in a book for which I high hopes.  Oh well.
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Thanks to Netgalley for the arc in exchange for an honest review. 

This book took me awhile to get through! I got confused often with what was going on with the plot between past and present and wish it had been written a little differently. 

There were some beautiful parts and I learned about the experiences of Syrians during this war time.
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Good read. I enjoyed the history and the science lesson about bees. I have gained a new appreciation!
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Told in first person,  the clues to the events in this story of war and survival,  are tucked into memories which results in subtle plot development.  Human tragedy and  desperation by the refugees are well incorporated into the plot points, but for me the symbolism is the most striking aspect. The destruction of the beehives  in the countryside outside of Aleppo compares with the destruction of the Nuri and Afra's family, home, town, and county. Nuri's interest in healing the  single broken bee which appears on the small patio in England compares with Mustafa sending emotional lifelines and encouragement to Nuri and Afra. As the expert in beekeeping when he lived in Aleppo, Mustafa arrived in England as a refugee,  and had begun to establish beehive colonies in his new country.  Information about the bees was tucked with in the chapters, and  served to relieve tension in the plot.  This is an emotional story which I highly recommend for its portrayal of  contemporary, global crisis.
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I received a free electronic ARC copy of this novel on August 28, 2019, from Netgalley, Christy Lefteri, and Random House - Ballentine Books.  Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me.  I have read this book of my own volition, and this review reflects my honest personal opinion of this work.  I am very pleased to recommend this novel to friends and family.  This is a book to read and savor, more than once. There are passages from this novel that keep drumming in my heart as I picture them in my head. 

Nuri, with his cousin Mustafa, is a beekeeper in the hills overlooking beautiful Aleppo, Syria.  Nuri handles anything to do with the bees and apiaries, and Mustafa researches and manufactures items using the honey and manages their retail business - though the started from scratch, at this point in time they are producing ten tons of honey a year.  Nuri had to break his father's heart to become a knowledgable beekeeper, learning the business from his Uncle - Mustafa's father and their common grandfather were beekeepers.  It is a lifestyle, a calling that Nuri felt in his heart far stronger than those nudges from his conscious urging him to join his father in his family business, shut up all day in a store selling fabric and notions to the masses. Nuri's wife Afra is a successful artist. Nuri and Afra have a beautiful, contented outdoor life and an eight-year-old son, Sami, the light of their lives.  Until. 

Afra suffers blindness after watching her son Sami die during a bombing in the streets of Aleppo.  Nuri does his best to help his wife and protect his bees as he watches friends, neighbors, eventually, even his partner Mustafa with wife Dahab and daughter Aya gather up essentials and flee to the coast seeking refuge across the Mediterranean Sea.  Anywhere else.  Afra, in deep mourning, lost and helpless, refuses to leave their home.  They will stay with Sami, who is buried in their gardens. Nothing Nuri says will change her mind. When she finally concedes and they join the masses of refugees of Syria, Afghanistan and the African continent, the nightmare continues, unabated. For YEARS.   

I live an hours drive from Juarez, Mexico. I thought I was cognisant with the whole idea of pain and loss and fear behind the fleeing citizens of a beleaguered country - leaving all you love, facing a life among strangers and starting all over again because you no longer have a home, a country, a place in your world.  I have done what I thought I was capable of to assist those fleeing through Mexico from Central America, Europe, even the Ivory Coast.  Locally we hold food drives and clothing drives, gather truckloads of water and diapers, try to provide tea and sympathy.  We bombard our legislatures with letters and e-mails.  But I truly had no idea.  Though presented as fiction, The Beekeeper of Aleppo has truth at the heart.  Please read this book.  We cannot do enough to assist these families awaiting validation at our borders around the world. And this is a problem that the world must solve before it is too late - for all of us.
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I cannot recommend this book enough - it is definitely in my top five reads of 2019.

The book follows Nuri and Afra as they flee Syria and attempt to reunite with other family members in London. Along the way they encounter altruistic as well as opportunistic individuals who either help or hurt their flight (often a mixture of both).  This is a masterfully constructed story that will keep you engaged as the author unfolds the past, present, and future for this long married couple who just wants what most of us want: the ability to safely care for one another as they grow old and not be forced to experience another senseless death of a loved one.  A wonderful story about the resilience of love and the human spirit.
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Wow--such a heartbreaking, enthralling and eye-opening book about a couple fleeing Syria during the war. So well written that you feel that the characters are real. Highly recommended.
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I have no words for this book. This is about Syrian refugees and their fight. It will break your heart but you will rejoice in the human spirit.
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Such an important story for people to know. There are lots of immigrant stories but this one is especially worth reading for it's insights into another culture.
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I would and have recommended this book to everyone I know.  An account of a Syrian refugee's loss of home and resettling in a new country.  Beautifully written in a way that kept me awake at night.  At such an apt time in our society, where we need to personalize immigration in order to not lose our humanity it is a must read for anyone with a heart, with a conscious and most importantly, with a vote.
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This book was absolutely heartbreaking and loving. Nuri is a Syrian refugee living in the UK, retelling his story as a beekeeper, losing family, and trying to flee his country. A parallel in the book outlines his true love for his wife and how we can lose people while trying to protect him. This book made me smile and cry and I would recommend it to anyone who needs to be humbled a bit.
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This book made my heart stop beating a time or two. The author did a powerful job giving these characters humanity. Her years spent working with refugees and her careful study of people is clearly reflected throughout these pages. This gut wrenching story gave me a view into a world I would never want to see. It cultivated a mercy that will never leave me. My eyes are open to the tragedy that is swept away from public view. The story is so well told that I felt like I knew the people in it. I wanted the beekeeper to find his way and his wife to be healed. I grieved with them. I cried. I was in shock. This is a powerful story.
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The Beekeeper of Aleppo gives names and faces to the glimpses we've had of the people that became Syrian refugees. People who were living their lives, working their jobs, raising their families, and enjoying everyday home life until the war and fighting finally blew up their existence and killed their friends, neighbors, and family. All that is left to do is to wait to be killed or die a slow death of starvation and lack of everything a human needs to survive. 

We meet Nuri, a beekeeper who has lost his hives and bees, and his blind wife, Afra. They have suffered the worst loss of all and still must find a way to keep living, if they can find the will to keep living, in their war ravaged world. Nuri's beekeeping partner and cousin Mustafa urges Nuri to find a way to get to Yorkshire, where Mustafa started an apiary and is training other refugees to raise bees. Nuri must convince his wife Afra, whose heart and spirit are broken by all that they have lost, to make the journey with him. 

What they've already seen and suffered is more than they can shoulder but now they must endure even more as they make the long, dangerous, journey through strange lands and bureaucratic paperwork that has the power to throw their lives right back into the hell of their homeland. We meet others that are trying to find a home away from persecution, war, and  the surety of death, if they are made to return to the places that they are fleeing. Privacy, personal space, all that they knew as home and family, are gone and it's hard to imagine how anyone can have the hope and willpower to keep fighting when they are so beaten into the ground. 

Christy Lefteri knows what she is writing about because she worked with refugees and saw their suffering and anguish and did what she could do to help them. Her love of these hurting people is so very clear in the way she writes about them and I thank her helping me to really see what these refugees go through to find a place where they can be eat, sleep, and be safe again. Thank you to Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine and NetGalley for this ARC.
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