kas, October 26, 2013
(view all comments by kas)
I found The Almond Tree to be rather uneven altogether. It was likable in a lot of ways and has a few truly admirable qualities. However, I noticed a few clear weaknesses of this novel. That said, I would recommend this book overall because the weaknesses do not diminish the reader's enjoyment of its better qualities.
In particular, the characters are drawn with great warmth, and I found I could empathize with the protagonist even when I disagreed with his actions or views. Moreover, Corasanti portrayed the profound suffering of various characters sympathetically and highlighted moments of ordinary human tenderness, but I think she managed to avoid melodrama in the former case and maudlin narration in the latter. This book was written with love -- it's not overwrought.
Another reason I found the novel worthwhile is that the author, an American Jew, depicted a Palestinian protagonist and other characters not only positively and as multi-faceted characters, but she gave a relatable voice to the suffering experienced by many Palestinians, due in significant part to Israeli policies -- in a way that respected rather than discredited the sufferings of all people affected as a result of the instability and cycles of violence in the Mideast. Her characters and the societies they inhabit are filled with real human beings -- not just forces who affect certain characters' lives.
I am not at all surprised that a Jewish woman could and/or would so tenderly depict the torments and joys of a young Palestinian man! That wouldn't be consistent with an understanding of the range of goodness in every people -- or more specifically, show basic knowledge of the spectrum of opinion among Israelis and American Jews on Israeli policies and the future of the Palestinians. But, I think it makes an important political statement in support of human rights to publish a novel that inspires this level of constant empathy with an Arab. It's an important book that way, I think.
The two primary weaknesses of the novel include:
A) an uninteresting, emotionally out of tune, cheesy ending to the story, and;
B) the book is not really well-written. I mean it's clean; Corasanti tells her story and connects the reader to her strong characters. But the structure of the novel and the style of her prose leave much to be desired.
I would read it again -- definitely worthwhile for me, but this is a poor example of literary fiction, as such.
I received this book as part of a Goodreads giveaway.