Review: The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti

January 31, 2014
Author: Michelle Cohen Corasanti
Publisher: Finger Prints Publishing
Year: 2013
ISBN: 9788172344870
Rating: ★★★★☆
Read book reviews from other readers

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.
― Michelle Cohen Corasanti, The Almond Tree

The Almond Tree is the story of a boy called Ahmed Hamid, who faces innumerable struggles to accomplish his dream of giving his family a happy life. This book is a powerful narration of the bleak lives of those suffering due to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The Plot

The story starts with Ahmed losing his little sister Amal to a landmine when she accidentally steps on it. Stricken with grief, Ahmed slowly loses everything he has until all he is left is a tent for a house and 7 mouths to feed. How he beats all odds to become a Nobel Prize winning professor in Physics is what The Almond Tree is all about. The lone standing almond tree which has witnessed Ahmed’s sufferings and is his treasured source of comfort throughout his struggles is the source of this book’s title.

The Good

What struck me as I read this book was how an American Jewish Author has so truthfully and transparently examined the miseries of a Palestinian Muslim family. For a first-time author, Michelle Cohen Corasanti achieves excellence beyond the reader’s expectations, consistently and elegantly capturing the spirits of her characters and the plot, thus easily immersing the readers in the book. The book also gives the reader a deep insight into the happenings of the Israel-Palestine war through an insider’s perspective. The author’s narration style is quite evocative and gleams with knowledge and research on the Israeli occupation. How Ahmed chooses to forget his feelings for his fellowmen, the Israelis and their doings for a better life in America and justifies his self-centered attitude has been handled beautifully. Filled with touching scenes like Amal’s death, Ahmed winning a scholarship at the Hebrew University, Khaled’s death etc, this book can be a tearjerker for the sensitive and the emotional.

The Bad

A few incidents in the story do make one wonder if the author has deliberately dumped a humungous amount of sorrow on the Hamid family just to invoke the reader’s sympathy. The handicap of Abbas, Ahmed’s younger brother, seems conflicting at different points in the novel. He is said to be a cripple who can’t walk easily but is seen standing upright, driving cars etc. in his later years. This kind of dampens his characterization.

Susan Abulhawa’s essay When novels distort legacies of struggle criticizes the author for narrating just one side of the story; but somehow, I do not agree with this viewpoint.

The Verdict

This book is a brilliant attempt for a debut novel and as many other readers have pointed out, it reminds one of The Kite Runner and Mornings in Jenin. This book is an entryway to understand the ongoing conflict happening in Palestine through various points of view.   

Read two pretty intense reviews of this book at Mondoweiss and The Palestine Chronicle!

Vanathi Parthasarathi

Vanathi Parthasarathi

Writer at IndiaBookStore
Love to read and have been reading since 5. Amatuer photographer and experimental cook! One of the best things in the world, according to me, is the smell of the pages in a book!
Vanathi Parthasarathi

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  • Yawar Khan January 31, 2014 at 6:57 PM

    Vanathi, Thank you so much for your lovely review, I just loved this review, you had written beautifully, After Susan Abulhawa’s attack on this book, reviews like yours, can work as eye opener for readers.

    • Vanathi Parthasarathi February 1, 2014 at 4:06 AM

      Thank you Yawar. Even I felt that Susan Abulhawa’s article was a bit hard on Michelle Cohent Corasanti.

    • IndiaBookStore February 3, 2014 at 2:40 AM

      It’s great that there are authors who are exploring the Palestinian conflict via fiction. That’s how these issues become more real to the average person.

      • Yawar Khan February 3, 2014 at 3:55 AM

        Yes, its an great attempt and I am sure thse sort of writing work can help to sort out the conflicts and issues.

    • Vanathi Parthasarathi June 18, 2014 at 9:49 AM

      Thank you Yawar for this copy 🙂 lucky to be one of its earliest readers 🙂

  • Jananee Raman March 25, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    This is nice review. I have always wanted to read more about the Palestinian conflict. I think the fictional take on it would make a great difference. Now, I really want to read the book!! Can’t wait.

    • IndiaBookStore March 26, 2014 at 8:36 AM

      Go ahead and read this book, Jananee… the word-of-mouth opinions of the book are certainly very very positive! And don’t forget to leave your own opinions about the book here, once you finish reading it!

  • Anil Mehta March 25, 2014 at 5:17 PM

    Very nice review…………Wants to read the whole book.

    • IndiaBookStore March 26, 2014 at 8:37 AM

      Lots of people seem to have loved the book. Once you read it, do tell us what you feel!

    • Vanathi Parthasarathi June 18, 2014 at 9:48 AM

      Thank you Anil 🙂 got a chance to read this?

  • Kashif Akhtar March 26, 2014 at 1:21 AM

    A comprehensive review of the book and I must appreciate the manner in which it has been outlined! Wonderful and I’m surely going to have it, sooner.

    • IndiaBookStore March 26, 2014 at 8:38 AM

      Do give us your comments regarding what you feel about the book once you finish reading it, Kashif.

    • Vanathi Parthasarathi June 18, 2014 at 9:47 AM

      Thank you Kashif 🙂 did you get a chance to read it?

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