Historical Novels Review
This complex story is beautifully told, weaving in historical events that are familiar, but which in the U.S. at least have always been filtered through an Israeli point of view. The perspective is brutal, yet ultimately not without hope. And it is elevated by Abulhawa's use of language, as rich and surprising as an exotic flower. She draws us into the nightmare of her heroine's existence with convincing passion.
Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
Abulhawa's first novel is an earnest but heavy-handed depiction of the 20th century through Palestinian eyes. The book opens in the Arab village of Ein Hod, outside Jerusalem, as a farmer named Yehya witnesses the destruction of his home in the war following Israel's founding in 1948. The book then follows Yehya's granddaughter, Amal, from her youth in a refugee camp to America (strange but full of opportunity), then her reunion with her family in Lebanon. There she falls in love with a doctor named Majid and becomes pregnant, but returns to America as many of her loved ones become enmeshed in the brutal Lebanese civil war of the 1980s and the Israeli occupation. With the Oslo peace accords, Amal finally returns to the country of her birth, but finds that the situation there remains tense and violent. While Amal's story is undeniably tragic, Abulhawa surrounds her with paper-thin characters, Arab and Jewish alike. The Palestinians want "only to live on their land as they always had," while the Israelis are murderers and baby-snatchers who use the Holocaust to justify their actions. Equal parts clumsy history lesson and melodrama, this book does little to shed light on one of the world's most complex conflicts. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal - Library Journal
Every now and again a literary work changes the way people think. Abulhawa, 2003 winner of the Edna Andrade Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Award, has crafted a brilliant first novel about Palestine. The book opens in the 1940s, in the small village of Ein Hod, before the forced relocation of residents to the Jenin refugee camp. Once in the settlement, a young girl named Amal Abulhawa becomes the story's focus. Through Amal's eyes, readers see the daily routines of generations of refugees and glimpse the indignities imposed on Palestinians by the Israeli army; they'll also see people fall in love, have babies, and develop an appreciation for poetry and scholarship. While some readers might see this novel as anti-Semitic, it is not. Indeed, Abulhawa goes to great lengths to highlight the universal desire of all people for a homeland. Furthermore, Abulhawa's compassion for American victims of 9/11 and for those who suffered in the Holocaust illuminates what it means to be humane and spiritually generous. The Pennsylvania-based Abulhawa, herself Palestinian, has crafted an intensely beautiful fictionalized history that should be read by both politicians and those interested in contemporary politics. Highly recommended.-Eleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.