adult fiction, Almond Tree, book reviews, Goodreads, Goodreads FirstReads, historical fiction, Israel, Israel-Palestine, Israeli–Palestinian conflict, Michelle Cohen Corasanti, Palestine, The Almond Tree
Mama always said Amal was mischievous. It was a joke we shared as a family – that my sister, just a few years old and shaky on her pudgy legs, had more energy for life than me and my younger brother Abbas combined. So when I went to check on her and she wasn’t in her crib, I felt a fear in my heart that gripped me and would not let go.
“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 friends and family. Living on occupied land, his entire village operates in constant fear of losing their homes, jobs, and belongings. But more importantly, they fear losing each other. On Ichmad’s twelfth birthday, that fear becomes reality. With his father imprisoned, his family’s home and possessions confiscated, and his siblings quickly succumbing to hatred in the face of conflict, Ichmad begins an inspiring journey using his intellect to save his poor and dying family. In doing so he reclaims a love for others that was lost through a childhood rife with violence, and discovers a new hope for the future.”
I didn’t really enjoy The Almond Tree, which I received via a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. I didn’t end up finishing the whole thing. On the one hand, it was fairly well written on a smaller scale; on the other, it seemed a bit too simplistic to me at times, and was overall unfocused. Obviously, no novel is going to change anything about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and no novel can fully illustrate the myriad of complexities, but I did appreciate Corsasanti’s effort, although she seemed rather biased. Although her Goodreads profile is cut off in its description, I think what she was trying to get at is that she was raised in an Orthodox home and then married a Palestinian? That’s certainly what her name suggests, but I’m not exactly sure.
The Almond Tree was certainly absorbing at first, and an okay story. A lot of awful, awful things happen to Ichmad’s family, among others, and he, at the age of twelve, is left to cope with it and try and bring his family back together. It’s unimaginable to me, and to most people in the so-called developed world. It almost hearkens back to when boys and girls started working at such young ages (some even at eight). Ichmad is already respected by the community for his intelligence and his skill at backgammon. Perhaps his intelligence was made a bit too much of; somehow, nothing else about his character is emphasized except for his fascination with science and other things. He was a bit one-sided as a character, and so were most of the other people in the story, for that matter. The Almond Tree was mainly good for its engaging plot, and its taking on the complicated issues that have been raging ever since right after World War II.
Still, there were many incidents in the novel that I found interesting, and it was heartbreaking to have to read about Ichmad and his younger brother having to go to work at such young ages. Ichmad still does tutoring sessions in the evening with his teacher, but both of them are working so hard, and not really earning enough to eat enough food. It’s an awful situation, with seemingly no solution in sight. Ichmad catches a rabbit, but right after that the area is declared a no trespass zone. And it’s not enough, really. Salvation comes in the form of a college scholarship.
The Almond Tree seems almost self-published in its formatting: with the same cover texture, paper, and font as many self-published books (it also has no listed price on the back). But it’s not, I don’t think, it was published by Garnet, a British publisher. I don’t have anything against self-published books per se; I just don’t really want to read people’s unedited stuff that a reputable publisher hasn’t taken on. So I was a little uneasy about that initially, but I don’t think The Almond Tree fits into that category. It certainly read like a self-published book, though. There were so many things that happened so abruptly without organization, and the book could have been a lot tighter and more planned. It kind of felt like the author was just randomly writing, and that ultimately made me put it down. The Almond Tree is an okay book, I suppose, but I just wasn’t interested in the characters, even though the part that I read had its points. So it’s worth a try, but it wasn’t for me.