Reviews for On Fragile Waves, by E. Lily Yu

mvvelde's review

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dark hopeful informative sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes

5.0

On Fragile Waves tells the riveting and raw refugee journey of an Afghan family of four: Omid, Bahar, Nour and Firuzeh Daizangi.

So much praise for this book! I really enjoyed the imagery as scenery changed from one country or geographical area to the next--and not just as in places but also in that of figments of imagination of Firuzeh and Nour. Throughout the grueling voyage towards becoming permanent refugees, Yu places bits and pieces of two different tales are told by mother or father to the children. I saw this incorporation of mysticism as something so realistic and inherent to parental nature.--that is: these tales are used to draw on the courage or other characteristics the characters within had, and to be used as encouragement for the difficulties Firuzeh and Nour were facing. In addition, I was glad to read from the position of different characters. For that of Firuzeh especially, it was lovely to read her self reflection. For others, such as the Nauru refugee camp workers, I much appreciated the juxtaposition of such a perspective next to that of the asylum seekers themselves. It highlighted the frivolity of the workers complaints about their own lives...they have jobs and loved ones and choose to be separate for days by choice, whilst the migrants have only each other, poor quality of food, etc. The former complains about the nature of the job. The latter are just happy that their loved ones are alive. For me, this added depth and meaning to the story, but also allowed me to connect better with Firuzeh and her family as characters.

I enjoyed Yu's style of writing, though I will admit that it took a few pages and occasional re-reading to get used to. For me, it seemed like a mirror of the chaos that existing within the reality of migrating. Words coming from here and there; interjections--not only of words but of actions--as others speak...it  was as if it the writing symbolized the  abrupt changes in the scenery and the people in and surrounding the lives of Firuzeh and her family.

Lastly, a thank you to Erewhon Books and NetGalley for the free eARC. It was truly a pleasure to read.

5 stars for On Fragile Waves!

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bookishlybrianna's review

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emotional inspiring
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.75

 On Fragile Waves is a startling, shining, poetic work of magical realism, with fantastical elements that blur the line between reality and imagination, a critique and a reflection, and a story of one family finding hope, terror, joy, tragedy, and love. 

kaylaboss's review

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challenging dark emotional informative reflective sad tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

5.0

read this book ‼️ 5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

this book has easily made its way to my top 10 favorite of all time. it’s SO good. On Fragile Waves is about humanity, and love, how we so easily manage to overlook someone else’s suffering for our own comfort. this is the story of what it is like to be a young girl, fleeing her home country with her family, to find refuge in a country that doesn’t want her. this is the story of family, friendship, survival, loss, death, sacrifice, feminism, girlhood, guilt, choosing to not see, suffering, depletion. oooh and the use of storytelling is really beautiful and magical. 

it is the saddest book i’ve ever read. 

“i tried, Nasima said, but they didn’t see me. like when i was alone. i was a daughter-shaped space in the universe. you feed it. you put shoes and dresses on it. you raise it properly, like a sheep, so you can take it to market someday. but you don’t see her, you don’t see your daughter, not really. not the way you see your sons. who are with something. who’ll work someday.”

thank you so much @netgalley & @ErewhonBooks for the ARC! happy publishing day!

donna2021's review against another edition

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4.0

A heart-breaking, magically haunting, brutally honest tale of immigration. The story follows Firuzeh and her brother Nour, children in war torn Afghanistan, with parents who dream of a better life for their children in Australia. Without the option of legal immigration, the family pays for passage and documents out and survives a harrowing journey by boat towards Australia. Firuzeh meets Nasima on the boat journey, and as they settle into a guarded friendship, tragedy strikes the sea journey and the boat finally lands at Nauru. Through the trials of living in fenced, government compounds, the family uses stories and fairy tales from their homeland to try and cope with horrible living conditions, abusive captors and the struggle to try and adapt to a culture they cannot hope to understand. This is a difficult story and subject that lays out the struggles, hopelessness, fear, acceptance, and joy that buoy this family as they try to make a new life for themselves. I am so glad I was able to read this story, as it brings a journey so many of us are unfamiliar with to light and brings a level of understanding to what immigrants face as they search for a better life for their children. The lyrical way it is written, and the events Firuzeh is faced with and how she copes, and ultimately moves forward will stay with you long past finishing this novel. The fantasy elements only occasionally peak through but this is such an important story to read, to put yourself into a world and footsteps of a young girl and her family just seeking peace and stability.

malex's review against another edition

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dark sad medium-paced

4.0

Thanks to Erewhon and Netgalley for sending me this ARC against an honest review. 

The writing in this book took some getting used to, at first it felt very dry and I was a bit thrown off by the unidentified dialogues (there are no quotation marks) and the brutal time jumps. The more I dived in though the more it felt true to the story as told by a child whose sometimes only getting understanding of what's happening.

We follow a family fleeing war in Afghanistan, trying to make it to Australia, narrated through the eyes of the young daughter Firuzeh. It is a work of fiction but it resonates really hard with the situation of a lot of refugees, making this a particularly heartbreaking read. After the sheer terror of the boat ride and the hopelessness of the detention camp, Australia seems like a promised land but the story doesn't shy away from the racism and discrimination that so often prevents refugees to build a new home where they feel accepted and safe.

A side note: this seems to be marketed as magical realism but it did not feel quite like it, the only "magical" elements in here could just be filed under "Firuzeh has an imaginary friend" for me.

Overall I really appreciated On Fragile Waves, it's a short read packing a roller-coaster of emotions and a bittersweet ending.

palabrasdeunmundo's review

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challenging dark emotional informative inspiring reflective sad fast-paced
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

 [I got to read this book ahead of its publication because I was provided an arc copy through NetGalley]
This book is a bit complex to review because as much as its characters may be fictional, the things that happen to them, the events that take place in its pages, are incredibly real. This book packs a punch, it is not long, but every single page of it is important. Every single page made me think about how lucky I am to have the life I have. 
This book deals with a family that has to flee their home country (Afghanistan) and their arduous journey to Australia, where they hope to find a new home. It depicts the horrors of being a migrant, the difficulty and dangerousness of the trip but also what happens once you reach the place you struggled so much to get to. 
There were many things in this book that were difficult to read, for me the hardest were the chapters in the detention camp, but like I said before, they are difficult to read because they are very real, and that makes it important for them to be read and known. I think, aside from the realness of this story, the thing that made my heart break the most was seeing the innocence leave Firuzeh and Nour little by little, hardship by hardship, but see them still fight, still hope. Because, after all, I think this book is also about that, about growing up and not believing in the stories of your childhood anymore but eventually realizing you need them to endure the injustices of life. 
I really appreciated the chapters that changed perspectives, seeing how many people cared or at least thought of this family who seemed to be so alone against the world. E. Lily Yu's prose is enchanting and captivating (in some ways - the best ways- it reminded me of Helen Oyeyemi's), her characters are so real it made me think this was a true story. Firuzeh and Nour and Nasima and Abay and Atay and everyone else in this book are fictional but sadly there are many people in the world with stories too similar to theirs. 
I think everyone should read this book, more so if you think it is easy being a migrant, or that the reason they come to your country is to steal your job or live off of your help. I think if you read this story and your heart doesn't break even the slightest bit for the real people behind it then that is because you don't have a heart and so it could never break. 

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phoebereads's review

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emotional reflective sad medium-paced
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes

5.0

On Fragile Waves is a stunning and thoughtful book that crosses oceans with its lyrical prose. It's a story of immigration, of pain, of love, of growing up, and of the stories we tell to others and to ourselves, set between Afghanistan and Australia. Yu's writing is stunning and her story is heart-wrenching and beautiful, weaving the tale of a family escaping war only to find new pain in the country they wish to call home. All the characters of this book are haunting and complex, and Firuzeh was an amazing main character to follow. I loved this book so much and it's definitely a story that will stay with me for a long time. I highly recommend.

** Many thanks to Erewhon Books & NetGalley for providing me with an advanced electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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paulap's review

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challenging emotional fast-paced

2.5

This book tells the story of an Afghani family and their trip to safety in Australia. It especially focuses on the experience of the children of the family throughout the travel itself, and not so much on the experience in the place they come from or the place the eventually go to. It is told in a short snappy style, with chapter that are just a few pages and makes it easy to read without compromising on beauty. 
The book does portray the struggle of immigration, focusing especially on the travel itself. Although this is a interesting angle, I felt like the choice limited the depth to which this book could go on the discussion of how these people are uprooted and need to adapt to the new cultures. The choice to focus on the children does give the opportunity of exploring the intergenerational difference, but it further limits how much the conflict between cultures of different countries can be discussed, since the children are not so aware of those.
Overall I enjoyed it, but I wish it could have gone in more depth. This is an emotional book more than a thought-provoking book. 
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