Book Review: No Land to Light On by Yara Zgheib

No Land to Light on by Yara Zgheib highlights the struggles faced by so many today when trying to find a safe place to live.

I cannot even begin to imagine how people who are terrorised and abused in their own countries must feel when, after escaping this trauma, they are exposed to more hatred when they have fought so hard for a new beginning. This is why books like ‘No Land to Light On’ are so important.

Sama and Hadi, originally from Syria, arrived in the US following very different paths. Sama is extremely intelligent and accepted into Harvard and leaves her homeland as a teenager. On the other hand, Hadi remains in Damascus, the capital of Syria, until his life becomes endangered. After he loses his friends in violent attacks and his life is threatened, the only thing left to do is flee, leaving behind his elderly parents. 

“…Damascus, now, was broken and cold, covered with dust and caking pools of blood. He couldn’t let her see the city, naked and battered, with its barren store shelves, barren faces queuing for bread, for water, for gas. It’s gassings, has masks. Checkpoints, on corners where the ice-cream carts used to be. Piles of blue, pink, white trash bags…” (Pages 41-42)

Over the subsequent chapters, we learn more about how Sama and Hadi meet and how their relationship quickly flourishes. While Sama seems to be quite comfortable in the US, Hadi is struggling and seeks out the familiar by looking for work alongside other immigrants who can share stories of better times back in Syria. However, this doesn’t stop this young couple from finding common ground, and they quickly become inseparable. 

Within months, they are living together and expecting their first child, but unfortunately, life is about to take a devastating turn. 

Since arriving in America, Hadi had worked tirelessly to get visas for his ailing parents. During the final stages, they were asked to travel to Amman in Jordan to complete paperwork. Sadly, Hadi’s father died unexpectedly before reaching the visa office. Hadi dropped everything and travelled to be by his mother’s side, helping to arrange a funeral and lay his father to rest.

During this time, the US set a new executive order in motion.

January 27.2017




Based on a true motion signed by President Donald Trump, it is at this point in the story that the lives of Hadi and Sama are turned upside down.

While dealing with his father’s death, and after flying back to the US, Hadi is refused entry into the country he had come to call home legally. He had a visa stating that he was justly allowed to enter and live in America during this time, but no one accepted this. With the new executive order in place, Hadi was denied entry and placed on a plane back to Jordan. He wasn’t allowed to see his wife or contact his lawyer until moments before his flight left, and he was forced to sign a waiver of his rights to return. The treatment described during these chapters was both distressing and, I am sure, overwhelmingly familiar to anyone that has experienced this kind of treatment. It also emphasises the strain and tension put on a relationship as two people are separated through no fault of their own and forced to live apart while trying to navigate once again the arduous process of being displaced in the world with nowhere to call home.

I also believe that this story is a deeply personal one for the author, as this did, in fact, happen to her and her husband, leaving them both traumatised by the horrendous experience of trying to fight for their rights to remain in the US. 

My thoughts on No Land to Light On

This is an eye-opening read that focuses on the anxiety and uncertainty that comes with being detained for no particular reason other than because of where you were born; or because of the colour of your passport. The unfortunate truth is that not everyone is born equal, and the treatment that some receive from others who feel they are more entitled is abhorrent. In this particular story, the treatment of the law enforcement individuals in Boston emphasises that everyone in this scenario is treated as a terrorist, regardless of their standing or background.

I was deeply moved by how one human being can be so dismissive of another and treat them so differently as if they are not human at all. I understand countries wish to protect themselves from allowing terrorists and threats. Still, at the same time, we must remember that most people travelling from war-torn countries have been persecuted and already suffered more than anyone should in one lifetime. They have already fought for survival and perhaps lost loved ones, yet they still cannot be treated with compassion.

Yara Zgheib writes beautifully about feeling caught between two cultures and people’s struggles to find a place they truly belong. She also explores the power of connection and community and the importance of building new relationships with people of different cultures and traditions to feel like you belong in a new place.

Through her own experiences, Yara offers a unique perspective on the joys and sorrows of displacement, diaspora, and the search for a sense of belonging. Her wiring is honest, showing a vulnerability that only someone that has experienced such treatment can, and demonstrates how someone can feel caught between two worlds. 

This is a moving testament to all those who must continue fighting for their right to safety and security. Stories like this need to be told to educate people and stress how hostile people are to those seeking a safer environment for themselves and their families.

Have you read No Land to Light On or anything else written by Yara Zgheib? Perhaps you have read a book with a similar theme that you think others will enjoy.

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No Land to Light On by Yara Zgheib is a fictional tale of a young Syrian couple trying to live their life but restricted by sudden motions put in place by the US government. Full review via @tbookjunkie

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