At first sight he is a happy man, who loves to eat and who dances in his hotelroom, but he had to deal with loss.
Jean is from the US and is in London to study foxes. She left her bad marriage and her grown-up son behind, but if she is honest, she knows that for example the coyotes she studied were always a bit more important than her family.
The first time they meet, they bump into eachother at Waterloo bridge, but in the days to come, they meet a couple of times. And despite their differences, there is also a strong connection.
Both of them are people who do not really need a home, who wander and feel best when they are travelling.
At the same time there is a shared bond and a willingness to help among all the people who are wanderers and immigrants, as Atilla and Jean find out when all kinds of people help with finding Atilla's young cousin.
This is a complex and rich novel that is about family, love, feeling at home and the way we intereact with the nature that surrounds us. But it is mostly a novel about happiness.
We sometimes think that we have a right to be happy, especially here in the West, while in other parts of the world people know that bad things happen and that you have to deal with that. Often, we do not recognize the feelings anymore that come with grief and trauma, and call it something psychiatric.
We shy away from those negative feelings, instead of dealing with them. Just like we do not know how to deal with the wildlife that has come into our cities like foxes.
But as Atilla says in his speech at the conference, trauma means suffering and that means changing. But in order to be happy, we need to acknowledge the pain and the loss and the unhappiness.
Aminatta Forna is a formidable writer who knows how to write about complex themes and make them into a very good story. I absolutely loved this book.
Published in 2018