This remarkable little novel is a hauntingly beautiful tale of love, loss, and redemption, told from the points of view of Avi, a first generation Sabra, and Saleem, an Israeli Arab. Both serve in the Israeli army; both are shattered. Their friendship serves as a metaphor for the similarities and differences between these two subcultures.
Avi’s mother left when he was a small child. Saleem’s mom is dead; he’s being raised by his grandmother, who is lost in a different way, yearning for the house her family left. Each father tries his best to provide a nourishing home for his children, but the absent mothers loom, a gentle ache that never goes away.
Saleem loves Sahar; for a blissful innocent time, they would meet Avi on a little beach. Saleem and Sahar eventually marry. The men begin their military service. When the Intifada of 2000 erupts, there is loss — personal, cultural, and national. The past cannot be reclaimed or rewritten. Personal relationships and lives are ground up by the merciless, shifting sands of war. But one can still act nobly, or at least try.
Emma McEvoy’s prose is lyrical and poetic. The images are sharp and clear, at times stark. Her elegant descriptions sculpt the landscape into a subtle voice, infusing and underlining the story: beautiful, harsh, unforgiving and, like its people, stubborn and resilient.