Valerie Zenatti’s moving novel, A Bottle in the Gaza Sea, translated by Adriana Hunter, depicts the unlikely correspondence and growing connection between Tal, a sixteen year old Israeli girl and Naim, a twenty year old Palestinian young man. The story begins following a bombing in Tal’s neighborhood. A young woman is killed on the eve of her wedding. Tal is shaken and moved to write down her thoughts. She has the overwhelming urge to share her ideas with a Palestinian. She asks her brother, Eyton, to throw the letter, stuffed into a bottle, into the Gaza Sea. Naim, or Gazaman, as he refers to himself, finds her letter and responds with an email.
Their letters are sincere, defensive, and concerned. Both Tal and Naim yearn to be heard; they want recognition. Through their letters as well as sections of authentic narrative and interior monologue, the reader feels their growing friendship and love. Although their points of view are opposite, they do indeed have much in common. In every word, the yearning for peace and understanding glow. The end result: a stunning and frank conversation. This novel should serve as a discussion point for young people who are tired of politics as usual. Like the film, Broken Promises, the story invokes utter despair as well as hope that young people hold the promise of peace. As Tal tells Naim, “I feel as if we’re caught in a labyrinth and no one can find the way out, everyone’s losing their temper and smashing everything in their efforts to get out into the fresh air.” And as Naim tells Tal, “I mostly have dreams.” The cover reads, “Love is like War…Easy to begin but hard to stop.” But A Bottle in the Gaza Sea is about more than love. It is also about hope and fear, and will stay with the reader for a long time. Ages 12 and up.