Mini Review: The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti

December 29, 2013

Title: The Almond Tree
Author: Michelle Cohen Corasanti
Publication date: November 4, 2013
Publisher: Fingerprints Publishing
Genre: Drama, Contemporary
Source: The Readers Cosmos Book Review Program
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Against a background torn from the pages of today’s headlines, The Almond Tree, by Michelle Cohen Corasanti, recasts the Palestinians in Israel and Gaza, a people frequently in the news, but often misrepresented and deeply misunderstood. This stunning debut conveys a universal story of human courage and perseverance. Comparable to Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, this novel delivers an inspirational story of unfathomable pain and an incredible perseverance.

Gifted with a mind that continues to impress the elders in his village, Ahmed 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 Ahmed’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, Ahmed 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.

The Almond Tree humanizes a culture and brings characters from a distant land to life.
Set in the times of struggle between Palestine and Israel, The Almond Tree was a book that I was instantly interested in once I heard the setting. The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict has always been a topic I've been greatly interested in, so this was an obvious choice. And I'm glad to say it didn't disappoint me.

Most blurb comparisons are hopelessly inaccurate, in my opinion, but The Almond Tree's gets it right when it compares the book to Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner. To read a book from the POV of a person stuck in the middle of the issue is a different experience indeed, and the author is a genius for having thought of it.

Ahmed, a Palestinian, is a math prodigy and grew up watching the cruelties of the Israelis to the Palestinians. But when he gets a chance to study at the Hebrew University, he is unsure of whether he can survive in an environment he hates. His infinitely wise father, Baba, encourages him to grab the chance he has, and give way to tolerance and peace. But Ahmed is faced with intolerance at every turn, and has to strive to make a difference using the gifts been given him.

One thing I'll tell you: The Almond Tree is not a happy book. Nor is it sad, not entirely, atleast, but it is an unflinchingly bare portrayal of an oppressed land, and as such, it is bound to contain the necessary brutality that comes with the territory. So I wouldn't recommend it to someone looking for some light reading, as this is the kind of book that haunts you long after its been read.

Corasanti's characters are all complex and fleshed out marvelously so they each play an important role in the book. Be it Baba's simple words of wisdom, or Abbas's (Ahmen's brother) crippled state, they all pull their own weight in the story, making it all the more richer.

I saw a few reviews that claimed the book was one sided, since it did not show the Israelis who fall victim to Palestinian terrorists. I'd just like to say that The Almond Tree is a work of fiction, and you cannot expect a story to be impartial, especially when its written in first person. Take it as a story of a boy, a man who grew up in the volatile environment that is Palestine, and not as a recording of history.

Bottomline: The Almond Tree is a story of living in less than ideal times and coming forth a better person, having risen above the discriminating factors of race and preconceived ideas.

The Readdicts: The author tells the reader an amazing story in an amazing way and if this is only her debut novel, I really cannot wait to read what she writes next.

Litstack: The Almond Tree is a hard book to read, for it forces us to take a radical look at our own complacency in the face of cruelty and oppression. 

She is Too Fond of Books: I wish I could say The Almond Tree had a happy ending but I found it bittersweet. 

This book review is a part of The Readers Cosmos Book Review Program. To get free books log on to The Readers Cosmos.