The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti
Publisher: Garnet Publishing (2012)
Format: Paperback, 348 pages
Originally published: 2012
"Gifted with a mind that continues to impress the elders in his village, Ichmad Hamid struggles with the knowledge that he can do nothing to save his Palestinian friends and family. Ruled by the Israeli military government, the entire village operates in fear of losing homes, jobs, and belongings. But more importantly, they fear losing each other. On Ichmad's twelfth birthday, that fear becomes a reality. With his father imprisoned, his family's home and possessions confiscated, and his siblings quickly succumbing to the dangers of war, Ichmad begins the endless struggle to use his intellect to save his poor and dying family and reclaim a love for others that was lost when the bombs first hit."
I strongly urge you to read this novel by human rights lawyer Michelle Cohen Corasanti! This book will capture your attention from the very first page and will stay with you long after you close it. What is more, it will educate you about issues that most people where I come from only hear about on the news. It will let you be part of the Israeli Palestinian conflict, and open your eyes to such issues as the scholasticide being imposed upon the Palestinians in Gaza, and the current Gaza blockade. It is a book of fiction, but it is set in the real world, and it will open your eyes and show you life in a part of the world that many of us are unfamiliar with.
Ichmad's story is dramatic, heartbreaking, and frustrating. Often I would close the book in disbelief of how the world could be so cruel. We accompany Ichmad through life, we share the incredibly challenges he has to overcome, his loss, his guilt. But we also share with him his talent, his passion for science, his love, and his belief in change and the good in people. As much as Ichmad's story is disheartening, it is even more encouraging and hopeful. After all
One of the things I liked the most about this book is how many perspectives it offered. Not only do we get Ichmad's view, but we also get those of his parents, who suffer in a Palestinian village as Ichmad goes out into the world to make money to support them. We get the perspective of an Israeli professor, who learns to settle his hatred for an Arab over a shared love for science. We learn to understand Abbas, Ichmad's younger brother, whose pain turns into hate and extremism. We encounter the ignorance of Israel's upper class, and on and we see the world through the eyes of Norah, the perfect and beautiful American Jewish human rights activist.
The story takes place over the course of around fifty years, and the short chapters made for a pleasant and quick reading experience. Cohen Corasanti's writing is honest and straightforward. This story has everything I look for in a book, and I would have given it a 5 out of 5 stars, if not for it's style. This is to say that the book is poorly written, it is most definitely not, but it is nothing out of the ordinary either. While I was reading I often felt that something was not quite right. There were some beautiful, very quotable, passages, but they sometimes seemed out of place, or forced rather. Like the author was trying a little too hard to make her writing more poetic, or more "literary", which was not at all necessary.
After reading the book I did a little research on its author and the topics it dealt with (which says a lot about how much I was not ready to let the book go yet). I found that Michelle Cohen Corasanti, is in fact not first and foremost a writer, but a human rights lawyer that wanted to tell her story. She is a very interesting woman, who has witnessed much of what she writes about first hand. On her website she admits that she first wrote the story in a very factual way, and that it took years to turn the book into a piece of literary fiction. This might explain while I felt some passages where out of place, but does mean that Cohen Corasanti has not created an absolutely stunning piece of art.
I truly mean it when I say, that this is a book that everyone should read and that everybody can learn from. If you loved The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini - which actually inspired Michelle Cohen Corasanti to write down her story - you will love The Almond Tree. It is one of the the books I wish I could just buy for all of my friends, and a story that make you wish you were a screenwriter, because it would make an incredible film.
There is currently a giveaway of this book on goodreads that is open until April 12. Enter here!