By Mohammed Al Samawi. William Morrow, 2018. 336 pages. $27.99/hardcover; $14.99/eBook.
Mohammed Al Samawi is the son of two Yemeni doctors who studied abroad. Yet he had limited knowledge of the world and other religions. He read a Christian Bible he was given and was struck with the similarities between Christianity and Islam. He managed to attend several interfaith conferences, where he met people of other faiths. But as an unmarried son still living at home, he had to mislead his parents to accomplish this. He would tell his parents that his objective was to convert attendees to the one true faith or that he was attending to enhance his professional career. It is very dangerous to pursue interfaith understanding in Yemen. Al Samawi wanted young people in Yemen to have an opportunity to communicate with young people from other countries and religions. He naively set up an opportunity for this kind of communication on social media without being forthcoming about where these other young people lived. When it was discovered that they were Israelis, he was suspected of working for the Mossad. He was lucky to survive this mistake.
This background information helps the reader understand Al Samawi’s experiences during the current war in Yemen. For example, to protect his family, he left his family home, his city, and everything familiar to him. He walked right into incredible danger. His only relative in this new location refused to allow him to live in his home. The result was that he was alone in an unfamiliar city where he knew no one. Even worse, he might easily be suspected of being the enemy because of his ethnic background. Even if he could get back home, that option might endanger his family.
Out of desperation, he turned to his Facebook friends from around the world. These were people he had met at interfaith conferences. These friends were Jews and Christians, the very people he had been brought up to distrust. None of them were seasoned diplomats or had high-powered positions. They did not have enormous wealth. Yet by contacting their friends and colleagues, they were able to help Al Samawi. His actual escape is full of suspense and the twists and turns we expect in a thriller. It is well-written with enough detail to help readers with limited background about Yemen better understand the situation there. I highly recommend the book to Friends who want to increase their knowledge of the region.