God’s Buried Children – A Very Different Kind of Christmas Carol

Sometimes there is this book that might not be perfect but still gets to you – under your skin and into your thoughts – long after you have returned the book to its shelf or turned off the tablet. Daniel Farcas has written one of these books, God’s Buried Children. This is not a story to make you feel all warm and cosy. On the contrary, his is a story to make you sad and angry. I was asked to review it and without much thought I agreed (‘hey, it’s for free, right?’) and I was so gripped by the cleverly put together story I could not put it down until I had come to the last page. So, here goes:

Reading these memories by an orphaned Romanian boy growing up in the 1980’s is a harrowing experience: Daniel is one of the many children left to suffer in one of the state orphanages, where brutality and neglect have replaced humanity and care. He and a ragbag of other children escape to eke out a living in the sewers of the capital, Bucharest. Not only is the secret police part of their daily lives, but also disease, hunger, drugs, and death. The only thing not part of their lives is someone to care for them and keep them safe.

When revolution disposes of Nicolae Ceaușescu this does not mean justice is replacing the previous injustice – at least not for the people at the bottom of society: The children living in the sewers are still tormented by the same people that patrolled during the communist era. Vlad, Crazy, Crow (they rarely know their names), and the rest of the orphans decide to find out why they were abandoned and to hand out their own justice where it is needed. Daniel is dreaming of a different life and when he meets the young American aid worker Mariana he is touched by love for the first time and maybe there is a future for him, after all…

God’s Buried Children is amazing reading with all the suspense needed to make you continue reading. The quirky language puzzled me in the beginning, but what else would make sense when the story is told by a boy who has never been taught to read and write? The mistakes and the tentative use of some phrases and words only help to paint a picture of something that should never have been allowed to happen – the betrayal of a country’s children. This is not light reading -but important. Romania is today part of the European Union but only a few decades ago it was one of the most impoverished and isolated totalitarian states on the European continent.

By not forgetting these children maybe we can stop it from happening again. Hopefully.