You read some books and enjoy them. You read some books and relate to them.
Some books make you feel happy. Some books make you feel sad.
Some books reach out to your heart and leave a mark which you can never forget.
This is one such book.
The Almond Tree is the debut novel of Michelle Cohen Corasanti and it takes us through the life of Ahmed Hamid and his family. It is set in the backdrop of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. This is not the usual rags to the riches story, but it gives a very practical insight to the struggles faced by the families during the troubled times. What’s more interesting is that the book is written by a Jewish-American author who narrates the story from a Palestinian’s perspective.
When Ahmed Hamid was young, his family was forced to leave their palatial home. Just when they settle into their new life and their hardships, his father is imprisoned. Ahmed is left with no choice but to drop out of school and take care of his family comprising of his Mother, his sister Nadia, his immediate younger brother Abbas and two other younger brothers Hani and Fadi. Having witnessed the death of his two younger sisters Amal and Saira, he is determined to provide a living for his family and takes up menial jobs. Fast forward a few years, his tutor Mohammad coaxes him into taking a scholarship examination which would get him to the Hebrew University.
Ahmed Hamid is gifted with numbers and possesses a very sharp mind. Not wanting such a bright student to forgo a wonderful opportunity his tutor volunteers to coach him post his work timings. With this, Ahmed easily cracks the written test and an oral test of sorts and is granted full scholarship for his studies. His mom is skeptical and reluctant to send him but Ahmed finally makes it to the university. The rest of the book is about how he dives into the world of academia, and at the same time takes care of his family.
I was initially doubtful when I received this book for review as I thought it was about something that I was not very well acquainted with. I was under the impression that this was probably just another Kite Runner, and having recently read it, I was trying to compare the books even before I’d started reading. But when I read past the initial pages, I just couldn’t put it down and I did not find myself stopping to compare with the other book, though the plots are sketched in a similar way. One very endearing aspect of the book was that it wonderfully portrayed the realistic struggles of a family when they’re left to fend for themselves. Every time there was a tragedy, my heart went out to the protagonist. Every time something good happened, I genuinely felt happy. I was able to paint a clear picture of the entire book, thanks to the wonderful narration by the author. I was able to recreate the atmosphere in my mind as and when I was reading the book. What more can an avid reader ask for?
Overall, I loved this book. I would rate it a good 4 on 5. It’s really tough to believe that this is the debut work of the author.
If you wish to read this book, you can buy the book here.
This review is posted as part of Book Review Program by The Literary Jewels.