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The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti
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The Almond Tree (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Michelle Cohen Corasanti

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29514038,041 (4.44)18
Member:Teritree001971
Title:The Almond Tree
Authors:Michelle Cohen Corasanti
Info:Garnet Publishing (2012), Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

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The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti (2012)

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* I received this in a Goodreads “First Reads” Giveaway *

Ichmad Hamed is a young Palestinian boy living in a small village controlled by the Israeli army. While innocently chasing a butterfly across a field outside their home his 3-year-old sister, Ama, is blown up by a land mine. Not long afterwards his family is forcibly removed from their comfortable home and assigned to live in a mud hut. Ichmad is bitter about his family’s circumstances and decides that possibly the rebels have the right idea. This leads to one poor decision on his part causing his father to be imprisoned for 14 years. Guilty over his father’s imprisonment Ichmad vows to try and change things for his family, but instead of getting better, the harder he tries the more things seem to become continually worse.

The only constant is his life is the almond tree that grows beside their ramshackle home. That tree is the source of much of their meager food supply; it is Ichmad’s refuge and the site of his biggest downfall. Eventually it also becomes the place of his greatest sorrow. But it is his constant.

Ichmad is, however, blessed with an uncanny intellect when it comes to math and science so with the help of a kind and determined teacher and against his mother’s wishes he enters a math contest and succeeds in winning a scholarship to an Israeli university. He chooses to make this the beginning of a better life for himself and his family. Leaving behind a crippled brother, his mother and younger siblings he departs for school despite knowing his family will be left in dire straits.

Ichmad feels the full support and wisdom of his father through letters but it is never easy for Ichmad as he is determined to do well at school and make something of himself. He manages to win over one his greatest nay-sayers, the Israeli professor who at one point had him expelled from classes. The unlikely and very cautious relationship between the two turns into Ichmad’s saving grace.

With a move to America and a prestigious position at an American university Ichmad becomes a little more “westernized” and eventually takes an Israeli/American wife. But in gaining a wife he loses a brother.

Fifty years later Ichmad is still haunted by his missing brother and the need to make his family whole again.

Despite the all too real horrors of religious and race intolerance, poverty, injustice, cruelty and war this is a wonderful book. It is sad, it will pull at your heartstrings, it may make you cry and yet somehow it manages to be uplifting at the same time. I was enthralled from the first page to the last. Ms. Corasanti has given her readers a book that takes you on an unforgettable journey with Ichmad’s family. She shows us the depths of despair, the strength of family and love and how sometimes even the pinnacle of success can be overshadowed by loss, unsaid words and unresolved arguments. The book is rich with the texture and the culture of the Middle East and there are very vivid descriptions of landscapes both ugly and lovely.

I can’t leave this review without acknowledging the fact that some people (those with stronger political and religious views that myself) will undoubtedly find this story one-sided. It is! It is the fictionalized story of one man and one family.

Although the subject matter and locale are different I cannot help but draw comparisons to “The Kite Runner”. This book also proves that no matter what life throws at you, whatever decisions you make be they good or bad, if it is important enough to you and you are determined enough … “you can be good again”.
( )
  ChristineEllei | Jul 14, 2015 |
Well written with many different emotions expressed & history of the area - An understanding between Israel & Palestinions, that we are all humans - Powerful presentation of growing up, falling in love,facing life with a of fear of lossing everything - shows love among different culture's and how it can work. ( )
  Jjean7 | Mar 10, 2015 |
I received this through a GoodReads giveaway. Much thanks to those who put the book in my hands.

I was a bit skeptical upon starting this book. Within the first two or three chapters, there was what seemed to be an inconsistency regarding the aging of a character in relation to the years the in which the story was taking place. However, this book ended up being tremendously powerful at parts, and the amount of emotion and soul was palpable. The characters all felt very well-developed and Corasanti covered many aspects and perspectives of the intricate and delicate situation.

That’s why I gave the book four stars: here’s why I couldn’t muster five. The first two thirds of the book seemed to be very emotionally-charged and it was hard hitting as a result. There was a string of compassion that tied all of the characters together. This string was easy to hold onto while there were intra-family conflicts but an overall sense of solidarity and support. That string was stretched taut during the final third of the book, thanks to the main character, Ichmad.

******POSSIBLE [MINOR] SPOILERS BEGIN******

Ichmad didn’t lose his compassion so much as he degenerated into a patronizing Westerner who, in his good fortune, lost all of the most important ties he had with his family and culture. I can’t say for sure whether or not the author intended for him to be a portrait of the negative effect that the “beau monde” can have on individuals, but my guess is that he wasn’t.

The deus ex machina came in the form of Abbas’ confession at the end about wanting to send his child to a school in the States. I must admit I was thoroughly disappointed by this ending as it seemed more like a self-congratulatory affirmation of U.S. superiority than a plausible ending.

******SPOILERS END******

It was obvious that this book promoted a sort of pacifism as a solution to the crisis in the West Bank and Gaza. Of course, this isn’t a bad thing, but the equal admonishment of all acts of violence, regardless of the conditions under which it was preempted, left a stale flavor in my mouth about a book that had previously captivated me with its humanity and unflinching look at Middle East conflict. The book is likely to put you on an emotional rollercoaster, but in taking the good with the bad comes the recognition that this book is an intense and inspiring novel.
( )
  crsini | Jan 13, 2015 |
I won this book as a goodreads giveaway.... And I am so happy that I did. This book was incredible. It was extremely well written, gripping, emotional and thought provoking... Everything that a good book should be. I loved it. ( )
  MiriamMartin | Dec 12, 2014 |
A very powerful book.

This well written book gave an excellent sense of the desperation felt by many Palestinians, that whatever they do, they are battling against impossible odds, yet, there is always hope. The only downside for me, was that Ichmad Hamid, who raises himself above all the desolation, only does so because of his supreme intelligence, which gives him exceptional mathematical abilities - I'd have preferred the hero to have been a more 'typical' member of the community.

Beginning in 1955, the novel starts with one of the most powerful opening chapters of any book I have read. Fortunately not all the following chapters are as harrowing, or I do not think I could have read it. Ichmad's family is close-knit, with a father who advocates love in the face of hardship and holds his family together with wisdom. But the hardships that they face would test any growing boys and their reactions to events differ.

The almond tree of the title became the centre of Ichmad's family's life after they had been evicted from their land to make space for the incoming Israeli population. it provided them with shelter, a source of food and income, and a view-point from which to watch their former land, now under Israeli occupation.

It is remarkable that the author is in fact Jewish, rather than Palestinian, as I had expected. She felt she could reach the largest number of people with her message by becoming a writer and I hope this book will become as well known as The Kite Runner and she may achieve her aim. ( )
  DubaiReader | Nov 10, 2014 |
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Epigraph
"That which is hateful to you, do not unto another: This is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary - [and now] go study." Rabbi Hillel (30BC - 10AD), one of the greatest rabis of the Talmudic era.
Dedication
To Sarah and Jon-Robert
To Joe who gave me the courage to embrace what I would have preferred to bury.To Joe who gave me the courage to embrace what I would have preferred to bury.
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Mama always said Amal was mischievous.
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Book description
In 2003, Khaled Hosseini’s novel The Kite Runner unveiled a moving and inspirational story set amongst the history of modern Afghanistan. The beautiful story of the love between fathers and sons permeated throughout the novel and helped readers better understand the history and people of Afghanistan. This fall, Michelle Cohen Corasanti’s stunning debut The Almond Tree (Garnet; October 16, 2012; Trade Paperback Original; $14.95) sheds new light on the Arabs in Israel. An insightful and inspiring novel, The Almond Tree recasts a culture frequently seen in the news but often misunderstood. 

In a divided land where family sacrifices supersede individual dreams, The Almond Tree follows the life of a boy named Ichmad in a small rural village. Michelle Cohen Corasanti’s characters convey the spirit of a resilient culture through their actions, their relationships and, most convincingly, through Ichmad’s voice. From his overbearing mother to the death of a sibling, from the pressures of an inter-faith relationship to the fallout of discrimination, Ichmad confronts each challenge with remarkable strength and determination, whether it is political, religious or otherwise. Amidst a background of violence and poverty, this story of perseverance showcases the remarkable tenacity of the human spirit and offers a wholly original, inspirational tale that will remain with readers for years to come.

Cohen Corasanti’s novel brings humanity and clarity to the Arab-Israeli conflict, exploring themes of redemption, family sacrifice and the benefits of education and tolerance. Her personal experience of living in Israel for seven years while attending high school and obtaining her undergraduate degree in Middle Eastern studies from the Hebrew University lends the perspective, insight and ability to craft this story. The Almond Tree respectfully travels a controversial history and delivers an enriching experience that is a testament to the human spirit and a hope for peace.
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A tale of two Palestinian brothers, one full of anger and hate, the other trying to build a bridge through scientific endeavour. Gifted with a mind that continues to impress the elders in his village, Ichmad Hamid struggles with knowing that he can do nothing to save his friends and family. Living on occupied land, his entire village operates in 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 loss, and discovers a new hope for the future.… (more)

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