A Trumpet in the Wadi: A Novel


Leading Israeli novelist Sami Michael shares his gift for navigating the cultural conflicts in modern Israel with A Trumpet in the Wadi, a novel that transcends its Middle Eastern setting with an honest and heartbreaking story of impossible love and the strength of family.

Set in the months preceding the 1982 Israeli-Arab conflict in Lebanon, this beautifully written tale is the coming-of-age story of two fatherless Christian Arab sisters, Huda and Mary, who live in the wadi — ...

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Leading Israeli novelist Sami Michael shares his gift for navigating the cultural conflicts in modern Israel with A Trumpet in the Wadi, a novel that transcends its Middle Eastern setting with an honest and heartbreaking story of impossible love and the strength of family.

Set in the months preceding the 1982 Israeli-Arab conflict in Lebanon, this beautifully written tale is the coming-of-age story of two fatherless Christian Arab sisters, Huda and Mary, who live in the wadi — the Arab quarter in the Jewish city of Haifa on the northern coast of Israel. An extraordinary bond of love and mutual respect unites the sisters — polar opposites from their appearances to their tempers. Huda, the narrator of the story, is thin and withdrawn and, after abandoning her chance at marriage a few years back, has prematurely resigned herself to the monotonous life of an old maid. Her younger sister, Mary, is voluptuous, carnal, and perennially unemployed. Wrapped in the love of their sometimes bitter mother, their iconoclast grandfather, and the cheerful and omnipresent neighbor Jamilla, the sisters' lives change when a peculiar young Russian Jewish immigrant, Alex, moves into the upstairs flat. The melodies of the soulful trumpet player become the intoxicating theme music for Huda's unexpected reawakening — and for Mary's dangerous foray into a love triangle with the heir of the local Muslim mob and her country cousin.

Michael's internationally acclaimed novel is a major achievement, illuminating the vast range of interlocking relationships between Jews and Arabs, Muslims and Christians, men and women. A Trumpet in the Wadi is an honest, witty, and ultimately heartbreaking story — one that draws on the conflicts in the Middle East, but one whose insights into love and family can cross all cultural and political boundaries.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Binnie Kirshenbaum author of Hester Among the Ruins A Trumpet in the Wadi is a passionate, human, and ultimately humane novel set against the backdrop of the Arab and Israeli conflicts. The political cannot help but be personal for these unforgettable characters; the result is the heartbreaking truth. Sami Michael has written a book which is essential in its beauty and wisdom.

Diana Abu-Jaber author of Crescent Sami Michael has written an inspiring, insightful novel that dismantles long-standing clichés about the separation of Arabs and Israelis. A Trumpet in the Wadi is a stirring story of possibility and mutuality.

Rachel Kadish author of From a Sealed Room A stunning novel — A Trumpet in the Wadi is wise, stately, sensuous, full of outrageous humor. Sami Michael leaps headlong into the magic and tragedy of lives tossed by history and in doing so captures polyglot Haifa in all its unvarnished humanity. The pages all but sing in your hands. You will not forget these characters.

Jon Papernick author of The Ascent of Eli Israel A Trumpet in the Wadi is a subtle, touching portrait of love and heartache. The layered complications of Arab/Jewish relationships in Israel and the country's myriad social ills are laid bare with humor, poignancy and clarity set amidst the brewing conflict in Lebanon. Sami Michael illuminates the dark places of the heart with his shining prose.

Publishers Weekly
Set in Haifa just before the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, this spirited, bittersweet novel captures the Arab-Israeli conflict in microcosm. The seaside city is home to a family of Christian Arabs: irascible Elias, the patriarch; his busy daughter-in-law, Umm-Huda; and her fatherless daughters, the beautiful Mary and her older, deplorably still unwed sister Huda. Also living in their crowded building in the wadi, or Arab quarter, is newcomer Alex, short in stature but well-muscled, a Russian-Jewish immigrant who plays his trumpet soulfully in the building's rooftop shed. His music, patience and remarkable physique awaken the interest of reticent Huda, while Mary rejects the advances of Zuhair, the son of their shady Muslim landlord, for the security of plodding Wahid, her Muslim cousin. A trip taken by the two couples to the Red Sea resort of Eilat is an uproarious highlight, and a visit by Huda and Alex to a nursing home to see Alex's ailing but tyrannical mother is a striking set-piece. The translation is occasionally stiff, and Michael tends toward over-explanation, but the novel deals cleverly and humorously with complicated relationships. Against the tragic backdrop of current events, the willingness of Michael's characters to ignore the strictures of individual religious beliefs and to shun fanaticism, is refreshing, though perhaps increasingly hard to credit. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Mary and Huda are two Arab sisters living in the Wadi, the Arab quarter of the Israeli city of Haifa. They are polar opposites: Mary is voluptuous, social, and temperamental, while Huda is thin, intellectual, and sickly. The year is 1982, months before the Arab-Israeli conflict with Lebanon. Both young women feel stifled by the atmosphere in the apartment they share with their mother and their Egyptian paternal grandfather. Huda speaks Hebrew fluently, works in an Israeli travel agency, and reads the Israeli poet Yehudah Amichai. She has resigned herself to a loveless life without marriage and children. Mary has a relationship with a Muslim from a mob family while cultivating an arrangement with a country cousin. The family dynamics change completely when Alex, a Russian Jewish trumpet player, moves to an apartment upstairs and woos Huda with his soul-rendering music. The nationalities that were once marginal now loom large as Alex is called to military service in the Israeli army, Mary has an ethnic Arab engagement party with her cousin, and many other family and national conflicts come to the fore. The Baghdad-born author, a well-established Israeli novelist (Refuge), is also president of the Israeli Association for Human Rights, an appropriate umbrella for a tale that crosses so many political and cultural boundaries. Well written and timely.-Molly Abramowitz, Silver Spring, MD Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A vivid account of star-crossed lovers in the maelstrom of Middle Eastern politics. The 77-year-old Israeli author, born in Baghdad, debuts here with a tale set in 1982. In a little house in the Arab quarter of Haifa, narrator Huda lives under one roof with her grandfather, her mother, and her sister Mary. Christians on an island of Muslims surrounded by a sea of Jews, Huda and her family are used to sticking out in the crowd and have long since learned to get by. Huda's father was dispossessed by the Israeli government in 1948 and her uncles were deported to Jordan for sedition, but Huda works happily for a Jewish travel agency and thinks of herself as more Israeli than Arab. A good thing, too, since Huda's family is soon thrown into some confusion when their landlord rents out the roof (this is the Middle East, remember) to a Jewish settler from Russia. Alex is a good-natured engineering student who can't even speak Hebrew (much less Arabic) and seems happiest when he's practicing his trumpet late at night. Huda's family is at first suspicious of him, but they are charmed by his simplicity-and they're won over when he defends them from the murderous advances of Mary's hoodlum boyfriend Zuhair, who breaks into the house one night and attacks Mary with a knife. Eventually, Alex and Huda fall in love, bringing about not the end of the story but its beginning. For, although Huda's family are willing to accept her marriage to a Jew, Alex's mother isn't approving of the match-and the situation soon becomes even more complicated when Alex signs on with an elite unit of Israeli army commandos just as the Intifada begins to heat up. Will there be a place for Huda and Alex to live happily everafter? The odds aren't good-but that's never stopped doomed lovers before. A fresh take on a very old story: elegant and enriched with real understanding. Agent: Stephanie Abou/Joy Harris Literary Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743261487
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 7/27/2007
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 0.58 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Sami Michael was born in Baghdad in 1926. An advocate against the oppressive regime in Iraq during World War II, he fled to Iran and made his way to Israel in 1949. The winner of numerous literary and humanitarian prizes, he is president of the Israeli Association for Human Rights and the author of eight novels, including the international bestseller Victoria. He lives in Haifa, Israel. The film adaptation
of A Trumpet in the Wadi won the 2001 Israel Academy Film Award for Best Drama.

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