Once We Were Strangers

Reviewed by: G. Connor Salter, Professional Writing student at Taylor University



Title: Once We Were Strangers

Author: Shawn Smucker

Publisher: Baker Publishing Group

Publication Date: 2018

Format: Paperback

Length: 195 pages


Shawn Smucker wasn’t sure what would happen when he agreed to work with a Syrian immigrant to write a book about his experience coming to the United States. Perhaps he’d be able to help the man adjust to his new life. Instead, meeting Mohammed turned out to be more about changing his own life. Smucker describes how Mohammed smuggled his family out of Syria and eventually ended up in America, and how they became close friends after their meeting. With each interaction, Smucker sees more of the flaws in his own culture and learns more about “caring for one’s neighbor.”

While many writers would have made this story into a fact-based book, half narrative and half social analysis, Smucker chooses not to take that route. Instead, he just tells Mohammed’s story in a novel-like style, which works extremely well. The narrative is filled with gripping details, and well-chosen dialogue that gives the story real emotional impact. Overall, this is a highly personal and convicting book that makes readers think about the people involved in immigration situations, not just the statistics.


Rating (1 to 5)

4 out of 5 stars

Suggested Audience

People looking for a Christian response to immigration concerns, Christians looking to learn about connecting with Muslims, Christians interested in multiculturalism.

Christian Impact

This book provides a convicting and intelligent look at what it means to love one’s neighbor as a Christian.


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Once We Were Strangers: What Friendship with a Syrian Refugee Taught Me about Loving My Neighbor

About Ceil Carey

The Evangelical Church Library Association, founded in 1970, is a fellowship of Christian churches, schools, and individuals.

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