By Bob Stone, Write Blend – 05 April. 2015 This is an important book.
In a world where it seems everyone has a view on what is generally referred to as “The Refugee Crisis” and governments can be elected on the basis of their immigration policy, there is a need for information and fact to inform the opinion.
Rory O’Keeffe spent time at Choucha Refugee Camp in Tunisia interviewing refugees, and then moved on to Libya, interviewing the citizens of Sirte, Tripoli and Benghazi.
This book presents the stories of these people told in their own words. They are stories of survival against desperate odds, but above all they are the stories of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances.
The book also takes the reader on a tour of the camps and the cities as a backdrop to the stories and presents a wealth of information about the Arab Spring and the Libyan Civil War.
As well as being an important book, this is also a very good book. It informs without preaching and shocks without sensationalising. The use of the second person narrative, which, to me at least, can sometimes make the reader feel they are being manipulated, is in fact highly appropriate and very successful in this case. It provides an immediacy, as if the reader is viewing the scene through the lens of a camera. This is due to the author’s voice which calmly leads us on our journey and makes the narrative highly accessible.
The refugees’ stories themselves are both disturbing and enlightening, with a pervading sense of bewilderment that the interviewees have found themselves in such a situation. The stories are inspiring because they are told by people who survived, but heartbreaking because one is inevitably reminded of all those who did not.
Anyone who seriously believes that refugees are leaving their homes and making desperately dangerous journeys to enjoy a life of luxury at the British taxpayer’s expense needs to read “The Toss of a Coin”. But even readers who are already sympathetic can learn a great deal too. The book is essential reading and Rory O’Keeffe provides the perfect voice to write it.