This week has been all about catching up with friends. We’ve moved around a lot over the years, which has meant that some friendships have slipped down the cracks of the sofa, so any chance I get, I do try to make an effort to see friends. Exhausting as it can be, when you are trundling up and down the motorway, carsick children in tow, it is the understanding and love you get from these people that makes it worth the effort. These are people who have been through the difficult periods of your life. People you don’t have to explain yourself to, or be on best behaviour for. They are tried and tested and you know even though you may go years without seeing each other, you can still pick-up where you left off.
Tuesday we returned to the area two of my children spent their early years. Driving through I’d point out where they had played, where they first learnt to ride a bike and restaurants we would go to for special occasions.
Over there is where I imagined my children, (when older) would be hanging out with their friends. This is the route I’d pictured them making their first trips to the shops by themselves. Now it’s all changed, but the same. People we knew have also moved on, chasing jobs or wanting better schools. Maybe some are still here, but you can’t knock on doors on the off chance.
It made me sad, much to my husband’s confusion. “Aren’t you happy were we are now and the friends you now have?” The answer is a big yes. I love my life. What makes me sad, is that this part of my life is over and there isn’t much to show for it. Is there? Shouldn’t I be looking to the future?
I recently read a book called An Act of Love by Alan Gibbons (thank you Nina Douglas for letting me have the chance to review it). It’s reminded me that friendship is important, especially the bonds we have as children. These are the friends who see us for who we really are. Cherish these friendships.
Also, although it’s good to look to the future, look and learn from the past as well, so that history doesn’t repeat itself.
An Act of Love was released yesterday by Orion Books.
An Act Of Love By Alan Gibbons
Waiting to collect his medal at a high profile military ceremony, Chris receives a text message from his childhood best friend. A bomb is about to go off. The only problem is that the last time Chris saw Imran, Imran told him he was a kuffar, pressed his fingers to his head and pretended to shoot him. They chose very different paths in life, Chris joined the army and returned injured from Afghanistan; Imran, having lost his best friend and older brother, drifted angrily through life until he found what he thought was his cause, a radical Islamic group, wanting to bring war to infidels. The type of group who spawned the 7/7 bombers. Chris has to decide if he can really trust his old blood brother, or have ten years and life choices driven them too far apart? Using flashbacks and changing viewpoints between the two main protagonists, Gibbons creates a pressure cooker of tension.
Having grown up in the Middle East, I was interested to see how this delicate subject would be broached, and I can’t fault the research that has obviously been put into this book. Gibbons captures the anger, frustration and sense of isolation that a teenager of any faith or colour feels. “You think you’re in control of your life but you’re not. Not really. It’s like you stumble through the years with a hood over your head. Nobody knows where they’re going.” We all make mistakes growing up, sometimes we choose the wrong path but, with knowledge, sometimes you can get back on track.
An Act of Love is about friendship, growing up in a multi-racial country and looking at everyday people as well as the extremists. I remember the riots and unrest of the 1980’s, and had to double check the dates in the book, with the depressing conclusion that history is repeating itself. All these events happened in the last ten years, not thirty years ago, which is a sobering thought about society. Maybe if more people read this book, understanding differences can help break cycles.
This is an enormous and heavy topic to cover, but An Act of Love is not just boy meets girl, Muslims vs the West, it’s about a love that fights and conquers hate. A sometimes uncomfortable, but intuitively written and compelling read. Gibbons gives the invisible a voice.
If you are interested in seeing the review and the questions that the author very kindly answered for me: