Somehow I simultaneously couldn’t put this book down but I couldn’t keep reading. I had to reread several statements just to make sure I’d read them right. It was painful to read at times, but also quite necessary.
The edition I’m reviewing is an uncorrected proof I received from a friend at Penguin Random House. Let’s Go Swimming on Doomsday was published in January of 2019.
Forced to become a child soldier, a sixteen-year-old Somali refugee must confront his painful past in this haunting, thrilling tale of loss and redemption for fans of A Long Way Gone and What is the What
When Abdi’s family is kidnapped, he’s forced to do the unthinkable: become a child soldier with the ruthless jihadi group Al Shabaab. In order to save the lives of those he loves, and earn their freedom, Abdi agrees to be embedded as a spy within the militia’s ranks and to send dispatches on their plans to the Americans. The jihadists trust Abdi immediately because his older brother, Dahir, is already one of them, protégé to General Idris, aka the Butcher. If Abdi’s duplicity is discovered, he will be killed.
For weeks, Abdi trains with them, witnessing atrocity after atrocity, becoming a monster himself, wondering if he’s even pretending anymore. He only escapes after he is forced into a suicide bomber’s vest, which still leaves him stumps where two of his fingers used to be and his brother near death. Eventually, he finds himself on the streets of Sangui City, Kenya, stealing what he can find to get by, sleeping nights in empty alleyways, wondering what’s become of the family that was stolen from him. But everything changes when Abdi’s picked up for a petty theft, which sets into motion a chain reaction that forces him to reckon with a past he’s been trying to forget.
In this riveting, unflinching tale of sacrifice and hope, critically-acclaimed author Natalie C. Anderson delivers another tour-de-force that will leave readers at the edge of their seats.
You can tell this book is well researched. I had my doubts going into it considering the fact that it is written by a white women. In this day and age, we know the importance of #ownvoices in literature and I didn’t know if she knew that. That’s the very reason I never read Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chained series.
Natalie D. Anderson acknowledges this in her author’s note and I respect her for that. She’s actually worked very closely with refugees. This is a story that needs to be told and this may be the best way to get the message across. People who actually come from this kind of background rarely have a platform to share their story.
The character and plot development were both really well done. I enjoyed the way the story went back and forth between the past and present. Those kinds of stories can be tricky to do right. The pace of the transitions was great. The characters were quite nuanced, there was no character who was ever really “good” or “bad” (besides one.) We really get an understanding of the driving motives of each character.
I loved the writing style. I felt like I was really in Abdi’s head.
The Not so Good
I did piece together some of the events that were going to happen. I started to get on edge, anticipating but hoping it wouldn’t go in that direction. It felt like the author anticipated this and she threw in a couple things I wasn’t expecting.
All in All
Let’s Go Swimming on Doomsday was absolutely heartbreaking, yet chillingly real. This is the harsh reality for many Somali children, though not all of them are spies for America. It’s also a very entertaining, well-paced novel.
The research and attention to detail was super well done. I’m glad this novel crossed my path when it did. I’d been eyeing it at the bookstore, so getting this copy made me so happy.
Let’s Go Swimming on Doomsday is perfect for lovers of The Kite Runner. Man, that’s a book I need to reread.