“You cannot go back and make a new start, but you can start now and make a new ending”
Summary – Gifted with a brilliant mind that has made a deep impression on the elders of his Palestinian village, Ahmed Hamid is nevertheless tormented by his inability to save his friends and family. Living under occupation, the inhabitants of the village harbour a constant fear of losing their homes, jobs, belongings – and each other.
On Ahmed’s twelfth birthday, that fear becomes a reality.
With his father now imprisoned, his family’s home and possessions confiscated and his siblings quickly succumbing to hatred in the face of conflict, Ahmed embarks on a journey to liberate his loved ones from their hardship, using his prodigious intellect. In so doing, he begins to reclaim a love for others that had been lost over the course of a childhood rife with violence, and discovers new hope for the future.
Review – This is a powerful coming of age story of Ichmad Hamid at one point a boy, but due to regional strife and the deaths of friends and family he is thrust into manhood and a paternal role. At first he is apprehensive in assuming this responsibility, but when the lives of his mother, his brother Abbas, his other siblings, and his own survival are at stake, for him their is no other duty in this world that would give him a greater pleasure. Think of him as a superhero where arithmetic and the laws of science are his strengths, but his heart and will is what make him unlike most; they are his superpowers. This is a story of the realization of the power of politics and the cruelty in the world through racism, violence, war and the satisfying of community and familial standards.
“The hardest part for us was watching them harvest our Shamouti oranges.Those were our favourites, thick skinned, seedless and juicy.When the wind was strong, the scent of their blossoms in the spring and their fruit in the summer still reached us.”
Israelis are working to erase the history and eradicate the people of Palestine. Inch by inch, one by one until the point all their land is occupied by Israel and all of their people are gone or under their rule. This story is also a commentary on how national conflict breeds varying feelings and beliefs within one family and how hope will dictate their destiny. With Ichmad being a member of one of the lesser known oppressed people in history, how can Palestinianian’s bear any understanding for the reasoning of their oppressors? Ichmad bandies these thoughts in head while his brother Abbas takes heed of his own experiences and decides on less complicated route by hating, profiling, and espousing prejudicial sentiments while plotting his future. While reading you understand Abbas reason for hate, but it is hard to understand the depths at which it lies and the control it can have. While Ichmad follows his heart and serves beyond the realm of his own probabilities, Abbas succumbs to the expectations of his enemy and lives his life in a vengeful state of mind with little to stand in his way.
“He looked me directly in the eye. ‘So you live in America?’
‘We do.’ I smiled.
He stopped, opened his backpack, pulled out an empty tear gas grenade and handed it to me.
‘I believe it was a present from your country.’ Majid smiled. ‘Tell your friends thanks. We got their grenade.”
The story also reveals how in all situations, even as grave as this, love still manages to find you, even if you can’t find it. The finding of love can seemingly come in all the wrong places at the wrong times. All the while the ones your forced to love or supposed to love can initially be the ones you don’t want to but rather have to due to religious covenants. Can love be learned? Can appreciation be garnered? Is love only conceived at first sight? Or can love conquer all?
While I am writing this review and prior to reading The Almond Tree I just finished Critical Mass By Sara Paretsky which I won in another First Reads Giveaway. What I found interesting, well for anyone that read The Almond Tree for that matter, was that both books and main characters have a love for physics as well as the work performed by noted physicist Richard Feynman. In the book Martin said that despite his death Feynman’s work made him immortal. Martin and Ichmad seemed to me like kindred spirits from opposite sides of the world. That to me is the beauty of science and mathematics as it transcends racial tensions and is never lost in translation. If you are interested in mysteries, physics, or young scholars I recommend that book as well.
I appreciate Nora’s insistance that Ichmad Hamid promise to tell his story, for the world should be grateful. Thank you Michelle Cohen Corasanti for being the literary architect that authorized this cultural revelation and made it come to actualization.
“Throughout history the conquerors have always treated the conquered this way. The bad ones need to believe we’re inferior to justify the way they treat us. If they only could realize that we’re all the same.”