The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti can inflict pain if you read it with an open mind. After suspending unjustifiable and indefensible pro-Israeli, pro-West bias, (why do Indians have it?) and accepting the Palestinians as human beings, the suffering of a people who have been denied the right to exist in their own homeland can leave you shocked and speechless.
This is not a case for Hamas or the Hezbollah, but suppression in whatever form breeds resentment, and living in the fear of death for too long makes one indifferent, to the extent strapping a belt laden with explosives, or lobbing one at your tormentors doesn’t seem so frightening. There must therefore be peace, is what the reader will endorse. This is the world view of 12-year-old Ahmed Hamid, that is why the comparison to Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. It is also an indictment.
Mama began to retch. A soldier spat at her. Baba lay on the ground, his lips parted innocently, his eyes closed as if he were asleep, except that blood poured out of his nose and under his head. My eyes never left him as two soldiers dragged his limp body out into the darkness…Outside I heard three gunshots fired at close range. My heart convulsed. I looked over at Mama. She had dropped to the ground, her arms around her knees, rocking back and forth…My family’s wails, as we huddled together, penetrated my bones. I willed myself dead in Baba’s place and knew, as simply and certainly as a twelve-year-old boy knows anything, that I’d never be happy again.
Two weeks later: The screech of tyres at the bottom of the hill brought me to reality…Boots dug into the hill, crushing the terrain. ‘Everyone out of the house!’ The faceless voice of the army called through its megaphone from our yard. Mama’s eyes widened with terror. I opened the tin door that I’d just fixed. A dozen gas-masked soldiers stood in our yard like giant insects. A soldier lifted his mask. ‘Out! Now!’ He was a chubby-cheeked teenager, a grotesque doll come to life…Sara’s face was covered in blood that came from a huge gash on her forehead. I placed her limp body on the ground…Mama leaned over my shoulder. ‘Save her, Ahmed.’ Sara never moved. Her eyes never fluttered. ‘Please, Ahmed,’ Mama cried.
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