Winner of the Batchelder Award--this tale of of exile, sacrifice, hope, and survival is a story of ultimate love.
Blaise Fortune, also known as Koumail, loves hearing the story of how he came to live with Gloria in the Republic of Georgia: Gloria was picking peaches in her father's orchard when she heard a train derail. After running to the site of the accident, she found an injured woman who asked Gloria to take her baby. The woman, Gloria claims, was French, and the baby was Blaise.
When Blaise turns seven years old, the Soviet Union collapses and Gloria decides that she and Blaise must flee the political troubles and civil unrest in Georgia. The two make their way westward on foot, heading toward France, where Gloria says they will find safe haven. But what exactly is the truth about Blaise's past?
Bits and pieces are revealed as he and Gloria endure a five-year journey across the Caucasus and Europe, weathering hardships and welcoming unforgettable encounters with other refugees searching for a better life. During this time Blaise grows from a boy into an adolescent; but only later, as a young man, can he finally attempt to untangle his identity.
Bondoux's heartbreaking tale of exile, sacrifice, hope, and survival is a story of ultimate love.
About the Author
Anne-Laure Bondoux is a well-known French writer. She has written several novels for young adults in various genres and received many literary awards and prizes in her native France.
"A refugee boy and his mother flee Georgia in 1989 and travel alone through the Caucasus for eight years to reach France. Koumaïl has always lived with Gloria, who tells him stories of rescuing him from a bombed train and stealing passports from his dead French mother. As civil war engulfs the Caucasus, they escape, moving from one refugee camp to the next, suffering hunger and illness. Along the way, Koumaïl makes friends and finds first love, supported by Gloria, who calls him her "little miracle," promises "tomorrow life will be better" and reminds him to "be happy... at all times." When they arrive in France, Gloria vanishes, leaving Koumaïl to survive alone to become a real French citizen. Koumaïl tells his story "in the right order," from the perspective of a 20-year-old refugee who ultimately discovers his true identity and that of the optimistic, resourceful woman who made "up stories to make life more bearable." A beautifully cadenced tribute to maternal love and the power of stories amid contemporary political chaos."
-Kirkus Reviews, starred
"An exceptional story."--School Library Journal, starred
"[A] beautifully nuanced novel."--Publishers Weekly, starred
"Readers will find themselves mesmerized not only by the eloquent language but by a plot every bit as harrowing and surprising as Koumail's cherished bedtime story."--The Horn Book Magazine, starred