Set in near-future England, we meet a man named Idir who who is preparing to take a citizenship exam. In the first chapter we experience the test from his point of view, reading along with the questions and learning through his internal monologue about how he and his wife Tidir came to the country some years prior from Iran after no longer feeling safe there. Things are going great after the first few questions until suddenly armed men storm the room and Idir finds himself tested in an entirely different manner; for every fifteen minutes that go by without their demands being met, the terrorist leader will force him to assess two hostages and determine which will die.
Talk about starting the year off strong! This was an intense read that I could not put down. The author did an excellent job making Idir an immensely likeable and sympathetic character before the absolutely jarring introduction of the terrorists. To say he inspired in the reader some of Idir’s feelings of shock and helplessness is perhaps an understatement. Moving beyond the raw emotion and the abrupt surprise, there was a lot to unpack with this one. It raised a lot of questions, not just about immigration policy, but also about professional ethics and how certain forces within a society (de)humanize some individuals at the expense of others.
There were a few other twists and turns to this story that I won’t mention here, but suffice to say I really enjoyed this work. It was smart, it was gripping, and it was powerful. My relatively short amount of time in this world was an intense, emotional roller coaster so I am calling this book an incredible success for the author. It is most definitely a read that I recommend checking out.