A Bot­tle in the Gaza Sea

Valerie Zenat­ti
  • Review
By – October 6, 2011

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.

Sarah Aron­son holds an MFA in Writ­ing for Chil­dren and Young Adults from Ver­mont Col­lege. She is a full time writer and has recent­ly pub­lished her first nov­el, Head Case (Roar­ing Brook) for young adults. Sara blogs every Thurs­day for the Lilith blog.

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