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From Scorn to Respect
George J. Mardo
Kit-Torb Publishing Co
297 Pages (Includes front and back matter)
From Scorn to Respect by George J. Mardo is a unique novel that weaves the same ideology throughout: family is the most important portion of our lives—no matter where life takes us. This shaggy-dog tale details the life of a Syrian emigrant as he journeys from his native home to America at the turn of the nineteenth century. The main character, Joseph Malik, is mandated to go to America at the behest of his parents to escape the woes of Turkish oppression.
Tragedy befalls him in the first few pages and paves the way for a unique and unusual understory woven into the fabric of the journey. Joseph epitomizes family values and an ardent work ethic. His sense of duty to his “new” homeland spurs him to join the U.S. Army just before America’s involvement in World War I. Being bilingual in Arabic and English make him highly sought out as a translator between countries with diametrically opposed political viewpoints. His skills take him to England and ultimately to Egypt twice, all while developing a family of his own.
During the trek of his life, Joseph’s parents die of a broken heart which only compounds a nagging question deep in his soul: had he made the right choice to leave his homeland to come to America? He had always hoped that his parents would follow him to the “land of opportunity,” but their untimely death precluded that reality. It is easy to see “why” family is so important to Joseph.
The narrative plays out among long conversational episodes that give a run-on feel to the story. Perhaps individuals of Middle Eastern descent are much more formal in conversation—but frequently the conversations seem too long, as if they were conversations that would not really take place. The setting spans greater than fifty years between World War I and the Korean Conflict which frequently cause single sentence plot derivations. Although it seems a little choppy in places, the story is easily followed.
The author uses the narrative to make the reader grapple with compelling ideas; such as, the importance of family, the station of women in the world, and the interplay of divergent religious belief. I found myself wondering if I put as much stock in family as Joseph Malik. The dedication he feels toward his spouse and children is admirable and brings a refreshing view of how important family used to be.
Through a twist of fate, Joseph’s skills in translating language and understanding the nuances of his Middle Eastern heritage call upon him to serve his country. The story ends where it began—Joseph finds himself an elderly man back in his homeland and is compelled to reconcile a nagging issue that has haunted him his entire life. Readers will empathize with the issue that has burdened him: why does God allow evil to exist in this world and how can a Christian reconcile tragedy with God’s goodness?
I recommend this book as one that challenges the reader to consider: how important is family?