This book follows four generations of one family through the Palestinian/Israel conflict. From 1948 when, it seems according to this book, Israel decided that Palestine was a land without people (that must’ve been a shock to the people living there already, the Palestinians) and declared statehood, to 2003 when an unlikely trio of people learn to live together this book follows the lives and deaths of a family of Palestinians and their loved ones in the refugee camp at Jenin.


The story is about the humanness if not the humanity, of people on both sides of the divide. Told mostly through the eyes and experience of Amal, the granddaughter of the first generation included, and the mother of the last, this story is very personal. While the Abulheja family may not have ever really existed, thousands of families like it do exist; both Israeli and Palestinian.


Amal (hope) grows up in the refugee camp, knowing bombings and bullets as most children know party balloons and swimming pools. Her friendships are forged in bomb shelters and smeared with dust and blood. That there are millions of people with this shared experience, on both sides, must be part of why it is so complicated to end. Anger, pain and fear cause the desire for vengeance to run deep and thick within the veins. It is almost understandable when a boy who watched his 12 year old twin shot to death by soldiers grows into a man with anger in his soul.


Amal’s brother is stolen from her mother during one of the attacks on the refugee camps the family has been forced into, and taken by an Israeli soldier to his barren wife. Raised as a Jew this boy and then man fights against the Palestinians and raises a son filled with anger and hated from the people who by birth are actually family. This side of the story is not laboured but for me it was the essential crux of the whole story. What we are and what we believe is an accident of birth or raising, rather than some divine rightness.


Both sides of this conflict believe in their own rightness 100%. In fact, beyond believe, they KNOW themselves to be right. And so mothers will continue to bury sons and children will continue to be orphaned.


This book made me angry and sad. And very curious about the whole situation. I understand it is written from a Palestinian point of view and I want to gather information from the other side. Because if what this book says happened really happened, I am really going to struggle not to develop quite anti-Israel sentiments.


A book that is well written and so easy to read, but not an easy read. It will make you think – always a high accolade from me for a book.


Now to find a similar story told from the Israeli point of view.