Title: Once We Were Strangers
Author: Shawn Smucker
About the book: It’s about a writer and a refugee who become friends in America.
First impressions: I don’t really read memoirs, but I liked the premise and title.
I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, but I was surprised in a good way. I enjoyed the beginning, especially the first chapter.
Characters: The story revolves around the author, Shawn, and Mohammed who is a Syrian refugee. What struck me is how similar the two men are despite their different experiences in life. Mohammed has a good personality. I wish I could be more like him with his hope and optimism. I found myself relating to Shawn’s thoughts. They’re both likeable and easy to root for. I wanted to see both of them succeed.
“I feel the vacancy only cities can bestow, the loneliness that happens when you’re surrounded by a city full of strangers.”
Writing: For such a heartbreaking account, the writing is beautiful. Some of my favourite parts of the book were Shawn’s conversations with Mohammed.
The chapters aren’t too long. They alternate between first person point of view from Shawn’s perspective and third person from Mohammed’s perspective. The book itself is shorter than I anticipated at less than 200 pages.
Final thoughts: The memoir was eye-opening and thought-provoking. In many ways, it made me reflect on my own life.
I highly recommend Once We Were Strangers. It’s such a timely, relevant read right now.