North of Dawn by Nuruddin Farah [in Booklist]
Originally from Somalia, Mugdi and Gacalo have now spent the majority of their lives in Norway, where they’ve been productive citizens, raising two children. Their quiet, middle-aged calm is shattered when their son Dhaqaneh commits a suicide bombing in Somalia.
Gacalo’s only way forward after the tragedy is to sponsor Dhaqaneh’s widow Waliyah and her two young children as refugees to Norway. Despite Waliyah’s refusal to engage with her in-laws, 14-year-old Naciim becomes quickly attached to Mugdi, while Gacalo works hard to make 12-year-old Saafi feel safe after surviving brutal gang rape in the refugee camps. Out of horrific adversity, a new family begins to emerge.
An award-winning, perennially impeccable actor, septuagenarian Sam Dastor summons his classical British training to resonating effect, modulating his voice and rhythm to embody everyone from teens to elders, schoolmates to grandparents, and refugees to established residents. His chameleonic, engaged performance enhances a timely story that challenges loyalties and borders in a contemporary society that perhaps knows too much about killers and victims, but little about families left behind to somehow survive.