Danny Ramadan, a Syrian-Canadian author, is a prominent advocate of LGBTQ+ and refugee rights. Like his debut, The Clothesline Swing, which won the Independent Publisher gold medal for LGBT+ fiction, The Foghorn Echoes explores the lives of gay men born into a repressive culture.

The narrative is divided between Damascus and Vancouver. When teenage friends Hussam and Wassim fall in love in Syria in 2003, we guess it won’t end happily. They live in a society where homosexuality is criminalised and homophobia is rife. Tracking back and forth in time, Ramadan gradually reveals their overlapping trajectories; the love that binds them and their shared trauma.

Wassim remains in Syria and, after abandoning an arranged marriage and young child, lives on the fringes of society; his own “exile”. He moves into a derelict house and is befriended by the ghost of Kalila, a woman who had been unhappily married in the 1960s. They share their stories and Kalila’s nonjudgmental response helps Wassim on the path to self-acceptance.

Ramadan weaves together these narratives to great effect and gives a vivid sense of Syria under the Assad regime. Gradually, Hussam and Wassim navigate their way through the fog of trauma and self-loathing in order to build new lives. Some may find that Ramadan’s graphic descriptions of sex pall after a while, but his central depiction of two men struggling to belong and find peace on their own terms is powerful and compassionate.

Originally published in The Observer