”You can betray someone with a word or an action. You can betray them with silence or inaction too. And in betraying that one person, you can betray a whole world.”Exodus, Julie Bertagna
I can’t remember the first time I read this book. It was a long time ago though. I do remember being struck, unexpectedly, by its power. I do remember feeling the fear of the time the characters were living through with a fear all my own – because it felt too possible.
On the Island of Wing, Mara and her family live with their small community, battered by every more ferocious storms and steadily rising seas. After the seas rose many years ago and swallowed the lands around them, they have learned to live in an altered world. When the seas rise again swallowing half the village they realise there is nowhere else for them to go. They must brave the ocean in search of the sky cities that have passed into myth. And so they abandon their sinking home on a flimsy hope – that the legends are true and help can be found. A hope that seems fulfilled for only a moment before it is shattered by the cruel reality of the sky cities. Alone and afraid, Mara is determined to find a way to save the people she loves, and the countless other refugees who came seeking hope and instead found the doors to the future barred by the powerful and privileged.
This is a fantastic story. But it is something much more as well. As the reality of the climate crisis becomes ever more evident, Mara’s journey is a poignant warning – both about the damage we have and will continue to wreak on the world if something doesn’t change and also against the temptation to shut the door to others. After all, what good is a shining future for some of others are left out in the cold?
Bertagna weave a compelling tale of love and loss, of friendship and family, of fear and survival and, through it all, creates a raw and honest portrayal of humanity’s tendency to sacrifice the many to save the few. More pertinent than ever, this book is a reminder of what we can create, what we can endure, and what we risk when we set out to do either.
I love this story. It’s one I have rarely seen or heard talked about in bookish circles but it’s an absolute gem and one I’d recommend to anyone. In fact, it’s one I wish I could press into the hands of every politician around the world, with the urging to not let this become out future. Not just a great read but an important one.
Have you ever read Exodus? Let me know you thoughts in the comments!