“Once We Were Strangers” is a story about the blossoming friendship between two men: Shawn and Mohammad, a writer and a Syrian refugee. This book is a tangible response to the age-old question, “Who is my neighbour?” and “How do I love them?”
We live in a world where fear presides: where reports about shootings and bombings and murder and hurt dominate the news cycle. With such uncertainty and fear, it can be difficult to know how to respond to global issues like refugees and immigration. Instead of reacting with compassion, our gut response is often to turn away in fear or to simply ignore the problem, thinking that it’s too big for any one person to solve. That’s why stories and conversations like this are so important to share.
To say that this book is a “nothing” book sounds awful, and yet, I mean it in the best possible way. There is no real plot to this book. There’s no adventure, no action, no fast-paced dialogue or witty storyline. It is simply a tale of real-life friendship — and that is what makes it so touching.
This book is about two men who built a friendship that crossed language barriers and cultural boundaries. As the author lay down his preconceptions about what it meant to “help” someone, he instead learned the importance of simply being a friend.
It costs more to truly invest in someone’s life. It would be easier to donate furniture or make a meal, to dip in and out casually, with surface level commitment. And yet, how beautiful it is when we instead take the time to build community.
I enjoyed the simplicity of this book. It’s a snapshot of relationship, while acting as a timely reminder to simply be present in the lives of our neighbours. The book is a quick read with chapters that alternate between Shawn’s perspective in first-person and Mohammad’s experience in third. While there were a couple theological points I may debate, this book was a subtle and sweet glimpse into how true friendship can impact lives.
My rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group
and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.