Almond Tree, The
by Cohen Corasanti, Michelle
This beautifully written and compelling novel is a tale of two Palestinian brothers, one full of anger and hate, the other trying to build a bridge through scientific endeavour. The book vividly brings to life the everyday experiences of Palestinians displaced by the Israeli occupation. The first person narrative draws the reader into the story of a twelve-year-old boy, Ichmad, whose life is about to be turned upside down. With his father imprisoned, his family’s home and possessions confiscated, and his siblings quickly succumbing to anger and hatred in the face of war, Ichmad begins his endless struggle to save his poor and dying family, and to reclaim a love for others that was lost when the bombs first hit. Ichmad supports his family through manual labour, first on a building site and later in an abattoir. Eventually his brilliance in science wins him a scholarship to university, where he encounters both prejudice and opportunity. His brother disowns him as he mixes with Israelis, and even marries a Jewish girl, but against all the odds, and in the face of personal tragedy, Ichmad succeeds in transcending racial and religious stereotypes, and is judged on his abilities and ideas, to the point where he receives the ultimate accolade: a Nobel Prize. The publication of this novel is timely, given the prominence of the Middle East crisis in the news every day and its effects on the lives of people all over the world. Reminiscent of The Kite Runner and One Thousand Splendid Suns, this is an uplifting read, which conveys a message of optimism and hope.