Review: While The Sun Is Above Us

Brooke Banks | 3:46 AM | | | | |


Title: While the Sun is Above Us  
Author: Melanie Schnell  
Genre: Adult, Contemporary,
Paperback, 240 pages
Published April 1st 2012 by Freehand Books (Broadview Press)
While The Sun Is Above Us takes readers deep into the extraordinary world of Sudan through the intertwined narratives of two women. In the midst of a bloody civil war, Adut is brutally captured and held as a slave for eight years. Sandra, fleeing her life in Canada, travels to South Sudan as an aid worker but soon finds herself unwittingly embroiled in a violent local conflict. When chance brings Adut and Sandra together in a brief but profound moment, their lives change forever.

In captivating prose, Melanie Schnell offers imaginative insight into the lives of innocents in a land at war, rendering horrific experiences with exquisite clarity. While The Sun Is Above Us explores the immense power of the imagination, the human desire for connection, and the endurance of hope.

“Schnell’s prose is transparent and true, and her voice is haunting, full of emotional clout. Hers are characters made of flesh and blood—they are brave, vulnerable, strong and, ultimately, alive with hope.”—Lisa Moore

”An urgent and powerful story about two women speaking to each other across every imaginable divide. This is a story that needs to be told!”—Buffy Cram, author of Radio Belly


I've won a copy of this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

I think I've said "wow" 15 times after finishing this book, trying to figure out how to write this review.

When I saw this book on the Goodreads giveaways page, I knew I wanted needed to read it. When I saw the book was written by a white Canadian woman, like Sandra in the book, I was a bit worried. I worried that Sandra would dominate the book unfairly and that it would be all about her perspective. Or it would become another tale of "whitey saves the natives from themselves". I also worried that Adut wouldn't be come across with the accurate perspective of a native Sudan woman and would instead sound whitewashed.

After reading, I find those fears were unfounded and  think Schnelle pulled it off expertly. From her bio on her website it says she lived in Sudan and from the Acknowledgement page in the book it's clear Schnell did an extensive amount of thorough research. I'm impressed with her effort and think it paid off.

{Admittedly, though  I do not have first hand experience with Sudan or its people. All my knowledge, limited as it is, comes from news sources - which is hardly a bastion of objective reporting anymore. Thus, my statements are qualified with "I think".}

Both women have distinct, compelling voices. While I was able to grasp early on what happened when the two women crossed paths, I didn't know what lead up to that point. I was completely enthralled by these women and couldn't stop reading their story. Not only to find out what happened but also because it's written so well. This book is written so beautifully. The writing is crisp, clear and direct,which I think matches the subject and characters perfectly. I love how the women alternated telling their stories and how they switched between past and present.

It's an enjoyable read in a gripping, heart-wrenching, tear-jerking, stomach-turning kind of way. It's a great book. It's just not for the faint of heart. It's not gory, glorified or graphic but rather matter of fact and straightforward. It's so realistic and perfectly on point, I started to wonder if this did in fact really happen. That's how good was.

When Sandra and Adut are done telling their stories, it sticks with you after. What happened in this book is so haunting and their voices so strong. There is also the lingering questions that don't get answered. There might not even be answers to those questions but I couldn't help wondering anyways. The questions are ultimately minor in relation to the overall story but still, I'd love to know how it is all connected.


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