Everything Sad Is Untrue

Yesterday I finished reading Everything Sad Is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri and thought it was excellent. I forget now where the book recommendation came from -- a website, but I just can't remember anymore what website it was. I borrowed the book from one of the library lending apps, Libby and read it on my phone. I had to read it slowly over two weeks because it was so heartwrenching, many breaks from reading were needed. Yet I honestly loved this book! And I found it ultimately hopeful and uplifting.

The book is told from the perspective of Daniel as a 12 year old. In a "patchwork" fashion, he recalls his family's history and the circumstances that caused his parents to divorce and his mom to flee Iran and come to the United States.

In Iran, Daniel's mom is a respected doctor with several degrees, fluent in multiple languages. She becomes a Christian (a capital offense in Iran) while visiting England. Back in Iran she eventually gets picked up by the secret police, who give her one week to "think about" giving the names of people in the underground church, and she flees the country to a refugee camp in Italy before eventually going to Oklahoma along with Daniel and his sister.

Daniel does not disguise the difficulties they face in Oklahoma, including poverty, prejudice, and an abusive second marriage for his mom. He does not pretend to have divine insight into the reasons why his dad abandoned them. Yet he remains firmly hopeful in his belief that one day God himself will make everything sad untrue.

By the end of the book I felt ashamed that I had never given much thought to how wretched the lot of a refugee can be. And it's wretched partly because no one thinks about them. The kids in Daniel's class only notice that he is different from them. That he might have a valuable story to share or come from a rich and fascinating ancient culture doesn't occur to them. There is a contrast in this book between God's love and care for individuals and how short we humans fall of reflecting God's heart for others.

I should mention two things about this book that some readers may not like. One, Daniel talks about poop a lot. There's a lot of poop stories. He admits it himself. Then again, the narrator is a 12 year old boy, supposedly. Is that normal? You can decide for yourself. You could also read a deeper message into it, like there are some things we know are a part of life but we don't like to talk about. Like poop. Or racial prejudice. Or the fact that you can be a sincere Christian and still end up married to a rotten guy. The book gets in your face a little bit, unapologetically.

Second, as I mentioned before, Daniel tells the story in a rambling, fragmented style that might be confusing or annoying. Sometimes while I was reading I thought, "What is he even talking about?" but by the end I found this to be part of the book's charm.

So be warned. But I think the book is a worthwhile read.

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