Title: Nothing Else Matters
Author: Patricia St. John
Major Themes: 1970s, Middle East, Lebanon, Young Adult Historical Fiction
Synopsis: After the death, in Lebanon’s civil war, of her brother, and especially of her mother, Lamia holds on tightly to her hatred and desire for revenge.
Patricia St. John is one of my favorite authors, so when I saw Nothing Else Matters on a friend’s shelf I knew I wanted to read it. It is quite different from her other books, in that it is written for an older audience. However, as in each of her novels, she illustrates one facet of salvation clearly.
As the story opens, 16-year-old Lamia is concerned about her twin brother Amin, and trying to shield him from their father. Amin is training to defend his Christian community from the Muslims who are threatening them as tensions build between people of the two faiths. Soon, open war breaks out and many people are killed. A cease-fire is signed, and Amin is invited to a birthday party for a Muslim friend he has known all his life. The “friend”, however, betrays him and several days later Amin’s body is dumped near his home. The family is plunged into mourning, and Lamia bitterly hates Amin’s betrayer and, by extension, all Muslims. After another round or two of fighting, she happens across a the body of a Palestinian woman from the nearby refugee camp—and discovers a toddler, alive, under his mother! She takes the baby home and cares for him, soon developing a fierce love for the little boy.
As the fighting escalates, Lamia’s family must leave their home and flee to another place, where, eventually, Muslim fighters find them hiding under blankets. The only thing that saves the family is when Lamia’s mother shows the Palestinian toddler to the soldiers and they recognize him as a member of their family. Lamia’s mother promises to return the baby to his family. When she is killed, however, will Lamia fulfill her mother’s vow? Or will she continue allowing her anger, hatred, and bitterness to rule her life?
The facet of salvation that is illustrated in Nothing Else Matters is that of forgiveness, repentance, and obedience. Lamia could not find peace with God without obeying—but could she bring herself to do that? This was quite a powerful story, and a clear description of a war I knew nothing about before reading the book.
WARNING: Not for young readers. There are some fairly graphic scenes, throughout the book, of the horrors and results of war.
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above