Against a background torn from the pages of today’s headlines, The Almond Tree, by Michelle Cohen Corasanti, recasts the Palestinians in Israel and Gaza, a people frequently in the news, but often misrepresented and deeply misunderstood. This stunning debut conveys a universal story of human courage and perseverance. Comparable to Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, this novel delivers an inspirational story of unfathomable pain and an incredible perseverance. Gifted with a mind that continues to impress the elders in his village, Ahmed Hamid struggles with knowing that he can do nothing to save his friends and family. Living on occupied land, his entire village operates in fear of losing their homes, jobs, and belongings. But more importantly, they fear losing each other. On Ahmed’s twelfth birthday, that fear becomes reality. With his father imprisoned, his family’s home and possessions confiscated, and his siblings quickly succumbing to hatred in the face of conflict, Ahmed begins an inspiring journey using his intellect to save his poor and dying family. In doing so he reclaims a love for others that was lost through a childhood rife with violence and loss, and discovers a new hope for the future.
Very few books have the capacity of delivering a serious message through simple language and gripping story. Very few books have the capacity to make to nod your head in agreement, misty eyed with emotions and put a smile in the end with hope. And, very few books have the capacity to touch your heart and stick to you long after you have put down this book. This is one of those rare books that managed to do all of the above with one story!
Essentially a story of Ahmed Hamid, it also tells us about the lives of those around him. Set in Palestine, this story gives us a closer and more personal look into the lives of people who have known nothing but violence and confusion in a long time. Ahmed himself is no stranger to violence, death and loss. However, under the guidance of his father, Ahmed takes the path of education as opposed to his brother’s path of war. With odds stacked up against him and hurdles at every step of the Ahmed’s determination takes him to a life of knowledge and love.
With so much going on in our country that frustrates me, I can’t even begin to think of the situation of the people there. And for Ahmed to take a completely different route to shape up his life, it only brings hope to and for not only people like him but also for our country. The contrast that Ahmed and his brother provide in the story helps put things in perspective. The plot of the story is therefore unique in its own way and it offers a range of subjects to think about to its readers.
The best part of the book is where we see the world through a 12 year old Ahmed. It was very difficult to read it because of how he perceived everything he witnessed and how it brought a change in him was so very apparent. I also liked the way the author has described the setting and background which painted vivid images in my mind. Language used is simple and really easy to get into. My only problem was towards the end of the book where I felt that the author’s finesse slipped off for a while.