No Safe Place follows the journey of Abdul, who we first meet down an alleyway in Calais, France, as he tries to trade all of his savings for a seat on a smuggler’s boat.
From the outset, it is clear that the stakes are high in this book, and that each choice is a shaky step towards an uncertain future. Abdul is a complex character who has left his war-torn home in Baghdad for the opportunities that he believes await him in England.
His journey has been long and difficult, and by the time we meet him, he is distrustful of other people and becoming desperate to take the next step in his journey. After a run-in with the smuggler who he is trying to buy passage with, he nearly decides to risk everything to escape through the Chunnel, but an incident during a riot closes this path to him. Out of options and desperate to escape, he finally manages to sneak onto the smuggler’s boat, unseen until they are sailing into the stormy seas. It is here that the next leg of his journey begins, and his story merges with the stories of the other refugees, who are also seeking the shelter of a new land.
The tension in this part of the book is heightened by the dramatic and unreliable backdrop of the rough sea. The reader shares the uncertainty of the boat’s passengers as Abdul’s presence is discovered, and a violent outburst from the smuggler puts all of their lives at stake. There is a fight, and the smuggler is killed and tossed overboard, where he is swallowed by the sea. In the relative calm that follows, the children who remain on the boat drift into an uneasy sleep and the story is broken up by the first of several flashbacks.
Each of the flashbacks takes the reader deeper into the past of three characters whose stories we see through to the end. They are heartbreaking and poignant and explain the events that put each character on the path that sees them riding with Abdul in the boat to freedom.
Upon waking, Abdul and his new companions, Jonah, Rosalia and Cheslav,...