I wish I had written this review sooner after finishing the book, but once I postpone something, I postpone it big! My thoughts may not be as fresh anymore, but my amazement at this story continues to stay the same. Hopefully I remember everything I wanted to say when I’d just read it (:
The Almond Tree is set in a time and place which, when combined, I honestly knew almost nothing about. The cruelty shocked me, even if it wasn’t really surprising. I’ve studied European history at school, so I knew some about the Jews, but that’s about it. The Almond Tree has opened my eyes to another part of this world and I admit I feel embarrassed for hearing everything about the Arab-Israeli conflict for the first time from this very book.
Ichmad’s story was eerily realistic and felt more like a biography (though I’ve never read one) than fiction. I’ve never encountered a book which has made me sympathize with its characters as much as this one did. I was standing right there, watching this family suffer, feeling what they felt, hoping with them. I didn’t want them to go through more devastation as they already had, but there always seemed to be this hopelessness keeping this family in its clutches. There was so much and too many people they lost. However, Ichmad didn’t give up and that’s what granted him a better future. Its beautifully flowing writing made the book even more enjoyable, and the pace was just right.
The characters were likeable, mostly because they weren’t just words on paper, they were real. We could see their development over the years, especially Ichmad’s as he got over his hate. He wasn’t only bright when it came to science, his father was a great example for him and I think he saved Ichmad in more ways than one. In fact, I think Ichmad’s Baba was my most favourite character in this whole book.
I never stopped loving Abbas too, even with the path he took. I felt extremely sorry when he had the accident as a kid, and when his son died near the ending of the story. Khaled’s suicide was deeply saddening purely because of the idea why he did it. I don’t hate many things, I definitely don’t hate any person, but if there’s something I do absolutely loathe, it’s wars, and people’s disgusting need for power.
There’s someone else I can’t leave unmentioned, and that’s professor Sharon. I deeply disliked him at first, so it’s all the more astonishing how much I came to like his character. His and Ichmad’s relationship as they worked together was truly heartwarming. I’m the kind of person that keeps emotions in and only rarely releases them, usually all together in a burst when I’m alone. That also means I don’t cry easily when reading about a sad incident in a book or seeing something sad in a movie. But somehow, in the end, when Ichmad and Sharon made their speech to the whole world, I had tears in my eyes. It’s abuse and the sensitivity of the soul that can affect me the most.
Of course no book is perfect if it’s looked at through the eyes of a critic. I simply can’t remember any details I didn’t quite like, but I know they weren’t anything big. Perhaps what bothered me the most was that quotes were like ‘this’ instead of “this”.
I wish this book was translated into my home tongue, Estonian, not because I found it hard to read in English – in fact I’m sure the original edition is the most pure – but because I want other people to read it too. Michelle Cohen Corasanti is an amazing writer, even more so knowing her background. For one, I’ve always found, and still do, that this land’s traditions are a little odd, but it never bothered me because the author made me understand. Let me say this book was worth every second of my time. I never thought I’d love a historical realistic fiction – two genres that barely get my attention – so much. It’s definitely a story I would recommend.