I was rendered speechless by this book. It is the most beautiful book I’ve a read in a very long time. It’s so incredibly written that you could feel all the pain, hatred, desperation and hope. This story is soul crushing and inspiring and refreshing and most importantly so very truthful. I don’t even know if my words will be fair to it.
Michelle has a real gift and a way with words. She managed to bring to life smells, views, sounds and emotions, oh God! So raw emotions! But what strikes harder is that all this pain was and still is real.
The math and physics references I skimmed through because they required some deep knowledge on the subject, which I lack, but they were very scarce and only to emphasize Ichmad’s talent. The Arab words were easy to understand within the context.
In brief words, this book is a wonderful testimony of humankind in its best and worst, and overflowing with wisdom filled lessons.
The heart of this story though, was in its characters. The complexity in all of them. I simply loved Baba! He sort of reminded me of my dad with his courage and advices of peace, love and understanding. This man is unbelievably strong, and the greatest influence in Ichmad’s life. He grew up to be the man he was because of him and all his teachings, because of the people who believed in him and who taught him to love and trust. These two men, father and son, are the most inspiring and resilient characters I’ve read about in a while.
But I also loved the fact that we got to know and care for characters that weren’t as wise and forgiving, like Abbas and their mum. I wanted to make them come to their senses so many times, but I could also understand their stubbornness and how life led them to be the way they were. It’s funny how people in the same circumstances can turn out as different.
I also had the chance to enjoy and witness, along Ichmad, how hatred turned into respect and then love when it came to Professor Sharon, and I couldn’t help but be amazed how love and patience can go a long way.
The writing is beautiful, immediate and engrossing, and you’ll easily get lost among the words and in time.
In sum, I was expecting good and I got great. I learned a lot about humankind, different cultures and history, but most of all about hope, kindness and forgiveness. Please, do yourselves a favour and pick this one up. It is a book to fall in love with.
Rating : 5/5
Mama always said Amal was mischievous. It was a joke we shared as a family – that my sister, just a few years old and shaky on her pudgy legs, had more energy for life than me and my younger brother Abbas combined. So when I went to check on her and she wasn’t in her crib, I felt a fear in my heart that gripped me and would not let go.
It was summer and the whole house breathed slowly from the heat. I stood alone in her room, hoping the quiet would tell me where she’d stumbled off to. A white curtain caught a breeze. The window was open – wide open. I rushed to the ledge, praying that when I looked over she wouldn’t be there, she wouldn’t be hurt. I was afraid to look, but I did anyway because not knowing was worse. Please God, please God, please God…
There was nothing below but Mama’s garden: colourful flowers moving in that same wind.
Downstairs, the air was filled with delicious smells, the big table laden with yummy foods. Baba and I loved sweets, so Mama was making a whole lot of them for our holiday party tonight.
‘Where’s Amal?’ I stuck a date cookie in each of my pockets when her back was turned. One for me and the other for Abbas.
‘Napping.’ Mama poured the syrup onto the baklava.
‘No, Mama, she’s not in her crib.’
‘Then where is she?’ Mama put the hot pan in the sink and cooled it with water that turned to steam.
About Michelle :
Michelle Cohen Corasanti received a BA from Hebrew University in Jerusalem and an MA from Harvard University, both in Middle Eastern Studies. A Jewish American, she lived in Israel for seven years and was married to a Palestinian Muslim for several years afterwards. Nearly a decade in the making, The Almond Tree grew out of the many stories Michelle heard and witnessed while living with Palestinians and Israeli friends and family she knew and loved in Israel and at Harvard. She currently lives in New York with her family.