This is the story of three desperate men from Palestine trying to make their way to Kuwait in order to find a better life and a way to provide for their families. In order to get there, they must cross Israel and Jordon, enter Iraq, and hire smugglers to get them across the Iraqi desert and into Kuwait. Smugglers are notoriously crooked, and often collect money only to abandon their charges in the desert, where many die. The novella first recounts each of the mens’ stories and why they are going to Kuwait, then tells of how they meet each other and a smuggler who is more honest, and then of their journey across the desert.
I admit, at first I didn’t like this one as much as All That’s Left to You. I found the disconnected narratives of the three men confusing and didn’t realize until after their stories all came together exactly what the framework of the novella was. Once I figured that out, I understood better, and the journey they all make through the desert is very well written. There’s this constant suspense, wondering if they’ll make it through the burning sun, through the times when they have to be locked in a tank that feels like an inferno as they cross checkpoints. You get to know each character, and see the relationships between all four of them develop over that treacherous journey. In getting to know them, you get to experience their journey with them, a journey that has been echoed throughout time by many people. It’s universal in a way – people fighting to get to a better land, with more opportunities, a paradise of sorts. The ending nearly made me cry, it was so powerful. I ended up liking this one more than the last.