Saturday, 11 July 2020

The Boy With Two Hearts by Hamed Amiri

The Boy With Two Hearts by Hamed Amiri
Published in the UK by Icon Books on the 18th June 2020.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A powerful tale of a family in crisis, and a moving love letter to the NHS

Herat, Afghanistan, 2000. A mother speaks out against the
fundamentalist leaders of her country. Meanwhile, her family’s watchful eyes never leave their beloved son and brother, whose rare heart condition means that he will never lead a normal life.

When the Taliban gave an order for the execution of Hamed Amiri’s mother, the family knew they had to escape, starting what would be a long and dangerous journey, across Russia and through Europe, with the UK as their ultimate destination. Travelling as refugees for a year and a half, they suffered attacks from mafia and police; terrifying journeys in strangers’ cars; treks across demanding terrain; days spent hidden in lorries without food or drink; and being robbed at gunpoint of every penny they owned. The family’s need to reach the UK was intensified by their eldest son’s deteriorating condition, and the prospect of life-saving treatment it offered.

The Boy with Two Hearts is not only a tale of a family in crisis, but a love letter to the NHS, which provided hope and
reassurance as they sought asylum in the UK and fought to save their loved ones.

The Amiri family's story is one of incredible bravery and dedication to each other. Even before Hamed's mother, Fariba, made her inspiring playground speech criticising Afghanistan's Taliban regime, the Amiris already knew they would one day need to seek specialised healthcare in the UK for the eldest son, Hussein, to rectify his life-threatening heart condition. However, immediately after Fariba's speech, the need to escape overtook everything else meaning that the family swiftly sold everything they possessed in order to raise the funds necessary for their illicit journey. I was reminded of Massocki Ma Massocki's comments in Pride Of An African Migrant about the unimaginable amount of money that vanishes into traffickers pockets, year after year, by refugees and migrants desperate to escape their native countries.

The Amiris harrowing journey took eighteen months all told and I was humbled by their determination to reach their safe haven, despite all the obstacles put in their way. It must at times seemed to have been an unachievable dream, especially with the ticking clock of Hussein's heart growing weaker as each day passed. Hamed writes beautifully of his relationship with his elder brother so I could strongly empathise with their plight.

The Boy With Two Hearts portrays life in Wales and England as I wish it could be for all refugees who arrive here. The family meet with kindness and understanding as they resettle in Cardiff, with the specialist heart department in Southampton being keen to do all they can for Hussein once they learn of his condition. In return, the Amiri boys give back to their new communities by way of voluntary service within the NHS, Hussein even winning an award for his unstinting efforts. I appreciated this depiction of the ways in which sheltering refugees can enhance the communities that take them in. The misguided nationalist narrative that refugees only take is proven very wrong here.

The Boy With Two Hearts is an uplifting memoir of young refugees and family unity which, I admit, did have me welling up at times. I liked Hamed's engaging prose style and I hope his memoir goes on to enjoy a wide readership across the UK. As one of a number of such memoirs I have now read, I think this tale would appeal to readers who enjoyed Butterfly by Yusra Mardini and The Journey by Abdul Musa Adam.

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1 comment:

  1. It is so important to read and listen to refugee stories at the moment to better understand them and what they have been through, and how we can change to better accomodate them at the moment. They definitely do sound like such a strong and determined family.