Gifted with a brilliant mind that has made a deep impression on the elders of his Palestinian village, Ahmed Hamid is nevertheless tormented by his inability to save his friends and family. Living under occupation, the inhabitants of the village harbour a constant fear of losing their homes, jobs, belongings – and each other.
On Ahmed’s twelfth birthday, that fear becomes a reality.
With his father now imprisoned, his family’s home and possessions confiscated and his siblings quickly succumbing to hatred in the face of conflict, Ahmed embarks on a journey to liberate his loved ones from their hardship, using his prodigious intellect. In so doing, he begins to reclaim a love for others that had been lost over the course of a childhood rife with violence, and discovers new hope for the future.
There are some books that get a place of honour in our bookshelves. These are the books that are treasured most of all, read and reread until the pages are dog-eared. ‘The Almond Tree’ well deserves this place. I received this book via a Readers Cosmos Review program. Thanks to them for sending me such a book.
As a book, The Almond Tree has been praised enough. All over the web and the literary circles, it has been hailed as the most engrossing book of the year. My review is on the same lines, not because I have to go with the flow, but because I genuinely like it. This is one book that deserves praise it gets.
A woman writing via the eyes of a native man in a country she did not originally belong to is no easy feat. But Michelle writes a first person narrative via Ahmed Hamid so easily that sometimes it seems like a memoir. This is a tale of misunderstood people, those people who we frequently see in the news but really know very little about. How many of us have taken sides in the Israel Palestine issue without actually knowing what it was about?
From a twelve year old brutally exposed to murder of his baby sister to a venerable sixty plus year old, Ahmed’s journey is one of learning every day of his life. Starting with a scarred childhood frequented with loss of love, property and perpetual scare of losing something/someone of value, Ahmed decides to shred all hatred and live his life in the alternate way. This is the most striking feature of the novel to those of us who are used to revenge and payback being prime aspects in novels.
From a devoted son to a responsible sibling to a diligent student and finally a ripe old man, Ahmed journeys, and on his way, dispels the darkness of hatred and shows that the fight really is not between the two natives but because of the entry of a third power. This is applicable to countries as well as personal life. Read this book to know more of the story. The book also has its share of memorable phrases and dialogs.
“Courage, I realized, was not the absence of fear: it was the absence of selfishness; putting someone else’s interest before one’s own.”
“People hate out of fear and ignorance. If they could just get to know the people they hate, and focus on their common interests, they could overcome that hatred.”
“He looked me directly in the eye. “So you live in America?’
‘We do.’ I smiled. He stopped, opened his backpack, pulled out an empty tear gas grenade and handed it to me. ‘I believe it was a present from your country.’ Majid smiled. ‘Tell your friends thanks. We got their grenade.”
WHAT I LIKED:
Almost everything about the book. Especially the almond tree which is Ahmed’s Bodhi Tree. (Buddha reference). It gave Ahmed a means to watch ‘the other world’ and the author an apt title for her book!
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
Nothing much to mention. Maybe some facts need to be polished.
I would surely recommend this book for anyone who wants to read a meaningful story.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Michelle Cohen Corasanti grew up in a Jewish home in which German cars were boycotted and Israeli bonds were plentiful. Other than the blue-and-white tin Jewish National Fund sedakah box her family kept in the kitchen and the money they would give to plant trees in Israel, all she learned growing up was that after the Holocaust, the Jews found a land without a people for a people without a land and made the desert bloom.
Until third grade, Michelle attended public school and then she transferred to the Hillel Yeshiva. The greatest lesson Michelle feels she learned at this Yeshiva was articulated by Rabbi Hillel (30BC-10AD), one of the greatest rabbis of the Talmudic era in his famous quote, “That which is hateful to you, do not unto another. This is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary.” There were two students in her sixth grade graduating class.
Michelle returned to public school for seventh grade, stopped wearing skirts with pants underneath and re-befriended her former best-friend whom she had lost touch with during her yeshiva years. Her friend’s father had since died, her mother turned into a raging alcoholic and her older brothers spent most of their time in their bedrooms listening to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds in a state Michelle still was too young to recognize. Michelle’s friend lived without rules as she had no supervision. Just what every teenage girl wants and what every parent doesn’t.
Being the oldest and the only daughter in the family, Michelle’s parents’ strictness suffocated her. She decided she wanted to study abroad in Paris in order to get distance from her parental-choke-hold. Her Zionist parents rejected that idea and sent Michelle to Israel to study Judaism and Hebrew with the Rabbi’s perfectly well-behaved and obedient daughter Miriam. Michelle was sixteen-years-old and the year was 1982.
Read the original review on http://www.readmuse.blogspot.in/2014/01/the-almond-tree-by-michelle-cohen.html