Hadi and Sama are a young Syrian couple living in Boston, expecting their first child, and chasing a bigger life. Suddenly, Hadi’s father dies in Jordan, and Hadi flies back for the funeral. Upon return to the U.S., Hadi discovers that the President has issued a travel ban for anyone from Syria, regardless of refugee or visa status. Will Hadi and Sama find a way back to each other?
Exit West meets An American Marriage in this breathtaking and evocative novel about a young Syrian couple in the throes of new love, on the cusp of their bright future…when a travel ban rips them apart on the eve of their son’s birth—from the author of the “absorbing page-turner” (People) The Girls at 17 Swann Street.
Hadi and Sama are a young Syrian couple flying high on a whirlwind love, dreaming up a life in the country that brought them together. She had come to Boston years before chasing dreams of a bigger life; he’d landed there as a sponsored refugee from a bloody civil war. Now, they are giddily awaiting the birth of their son, a boy whose native language would be freedom and belonging.
When Sama is five months pregnant, Hadi’s father dies suddenly in Jordan, the night before his visa appointment at the embassy. Hadi flies back for the funeral, promising his wife that he’ll only be gone for a few days. On the day his flight is due to arrive in Boston, Sama is waiting for him at the airport, eager to bring him back home. But as the minutes and then hours pass, she continues to wait, unaware that Hadi has been stopped at the border and detained for questioning, trapped in a timeless, nightmarish limbo.
Worlds apart, suspended between hope and disillusion as hours become days become weeks, Sama and Hadi yearn for a way back to each other, and to the life they’d dreamed up together. But does that life exist anymore, or was it only an illusion?
Achingly intimate yet poignantly universal, No Land to Light On is the story of a family caught up in forces beyond their control, fighting for the freedom and home they found in one another.
No Land to Light On is a moving story about a young Syrian couple torn apart by Trump’s Muslim travel ban on the eve of their son’s birth. Within this book, Hadi and Sama navigate this heartbreaking reality for a country where their dreams were supposed to come true.
No Land to Light On is told from the alternating perspectives of Hadi and Sama. As Yara Zgheib narrates Hadi and Sama’s story – from childhoods in Syria to falling in love – the timeline does hop around. However, I did not find the story difficult to follow.
This book definitely falls within the literary fiction genre. As such, the writing is more stylized than you usually find in contemporary fiction. If you do not like lyrical writing or open endings, No Land to Light On may not be for you. I enjoyed Yara Zgheib’s writing overall. My only real complaint is I did not feel like the story was tied in enough with the bird migration narrative.
While I generally consider myself a person educated on current events, until reading No Land to Light On, I did not realize the full effects of the Muslim travel ban. I was unaware that those who had a visa, permanent residence, or refugee status were being barred from entering the country. Reading first hand about these effects was frustrating and heartbreaking. I think it would be difficult for any reader not to feel empathy for Hadi & Sama’s.
That being said, at times I wished that there was more detail provided. I am generally not big on open-ended conclusions, but I thought this ending was appropriate and satisfying. Still, there were a few loose ends that nagged at me, but I will forego discussing those for fear of spoilers.
Overall, I enjoyed No Land to Light On, and it will be a book I think about for a long time to come. I do recommend it as long as you enjoy literary fiction. I will still urge those who typically do not read literary fiction to read it because I think it is an important story.
No Land to Light On
January 4, 2022
Note: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from the publisher, Atria Books. Regardless, I always provide a fair and honest review.