The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 5.6 million Syrians have fled their country since 2011. Another 6.2 million have been displaced within their own country. Half of these refugees are children. Against the backdrop of this crisis, I chose to continue the arc of the story of one of my favorite protagonists, Harper Harris. Some of you may have read my previous trilogy featuring her as the main character. I initially chose her because her profession as a foreign correspondent lent itself to both exotic settings and interesting story lines. Harris considers it her duty to bear witness and record the stories that might otherwise be forgotten by our society's tendency to both trivialize and sensationalize the plight of those less fortunate than ourselves. The refugees in this story, while nameless and not the main actors in this drama, provide the backdrop for the personal stories of my characters. They are a constant off-screen presence that cannot be ignored.
The inspiration for this story began with my visit to a museum in Ljubljana, Slovenia that was featuring a retrospective of the work of a renowned Slovenian photojournalist. Much of his work portrayed the trauma of the Balkan Wars of the 1990's, a period that provided the first big break for my fictional character, Harper Harris. Thus, I chose to start my story with Ms. Harris presenting a retrospective of her own work at that same museum. There she is approached by a woman claiming to be the ex-wife of a man with whom Harper was romantically linked during the Siege of Sarajevo twenty-four years earlier. The ex-husband as well as the couple's adopted daughter have gone missing in Kurdistan soon after the Turkish invasion of northern Syria. The woman, Adele Marchand, asks Harper to help her find them. Initially, she only wants access to Harper's contacts in northern Iraq to aid in her search. But soon, Adele convinces Harper to accompany her. Harper reluctantly agrees out of misplaced guilt and obligation, but also because of her relentless curiosity and the prospect of a story.
What follows is a dangerous odyssey across a landscape of refugee camps, war-torn Iraq, and the ever present specter of violence. The story is told from the point of view of all four actors: Harper, Adele. the ex-husband and father Luke, and the daughter, Maggie. Their individual journeys crisscross Kurdistan, an area encompassing northern Syria and Iraq; a locale dotted with refugee camps, porous borders. and wandering militias of various stripes.
My stories appeal to readers who enjoy exotic settings off the beaten, current and recent history, and original story lines and characters. I have taken readers to the refugee camps of the Sudan, wartime and modern day Nicaragua, Bali, the Congo, Baghdad, Ebola-ridden Sierra Leone, Syria, post-genocide Guatemala, and Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, just to name a few. Excerpts of my novels and essays about their genesis can be found on my website: www.dennisjung. com