Reviewed by Richard Bunning
This is a deep, rich, poignant and profoundly humanistic book. It is also one of the best “political” books I have ever read.
The central thesis, a family that could be any one’s neighbours anywhere of Earth, except that they are struggling against the crush of a “foreign” military occupation, living between Jerusalem and Ramallah, is brilliantly constructed.
Whilst telling one extended family’s story Hallaj very cleverly keeps the reader linked to the massive historical waves convulsing the nowadays lands of Abraham. The chosen device, the start of chapter historic, headline, quote, works very well.
Hallaj is a very good reader of the mind set of others. Her characters are totally believable, and her understanding of the issues facing now stateless people walking their own ancestors’ lands seems to me to be sharp and profound. Politicians who really care for the pursuit of peace should read this book, whatever side of the wicked divide birth or conviction puts them on.
My only gripe is that Hallaj is far too soft on the terrors on both sides of the story. For me the time for soft kicks, for common sense to find solutions, ended with the death of Ben Gurion, a long life far too short. But then again, if ever peace is to come and it can only come through peaceful means then this book may well be a cathartic part of the build. No antagonists can justifiably claim that this read is too hurtful of their sensibilities. For those such as me, distant from the issues, this is a fiction that I feel accurately reflects a continuing truth. Whilst it is only too easy for me to say the words that this book boils in me, I fully acknowledge that if I had been born to either side I would likely be a thorn rather than a peacemaker. Only extraordinarily brave people will ever change things, but I’m sure the humanitarian values portrayed in books like this are a modest but valuable step. We all have mothers.