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The Almond Tree
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2013
I was almost hesitant to read this book after the first chapter. I can't tell you how grateful I am to Michelle Cohen Corasanti for the chance to have read this. Ichmad is a true hero of many. Overcoming the odds that many people couldn't even imagine. He always questioned everything. Overcame hate and adversity. This book was something I've been trying to say for quite some time now... There's no reason to hate, we're all on the same team. Live life to the fullest and follow your dreams. Do what is right because it is right, not because you might benefit from it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Michelle. I am going to pass this book on. Thank you.

I recommend this book to everyone. You want meaning... this book has it... It's simply amazing. It is very well written... I for one have never shed a tear from a book... This one got me a couple of times... Remember: truth and understanding is always the way to go..
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22 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2013
The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Coras­anti is a debut novel by this accom­plished woman. The novel looks at the Mid­dle East prob­lems through a pro-Palestinian point of view.
Ich­mad Hamid was born in a small Pales­ti­nine vil­lage, but soon impresses those who know him with his sharp mind. On his 12th birth­day Ichmad's father is improsined, his home destroyed and pos­ses­sions consficated.

Ich­mad uses the only tools he has, a work ethic and a genius mind, to make a name for him­self, receive equal­ity and give and receive hope.

The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Coras­anti is a sad book with lots of descrip­tive vio­lence which starts early on until the very end. It seems to me that the author was try­ing hard to cre­ate a tear jerker.

While the sub­ject mat­ter of the book is for adults, the writ­ing seemed to be tar­get­ing the YA crowd or mid­dle school chil­dren. Not that the writ­ing is bad, just sim­plis­tic with a few math prob­lems thrown in for good mea­sure (the pro­tag­o­nist is a math­e­mat­i­cal genius).

I tried to read the novel with an open mind, but towards the end, the heavy handed bias of the book sim­ply turned me off. The novel is writ­ten from the Pales­tin­ian per­spec­tive of the Mid­dle East how­ever I found it to be inac­cu­rate and overly sim­pli­fied. The Arabs are good and hand­some (with one or two excep­tions), the Israelis are bad and ugly (with one or two excep­tions) and every­one who dares wears a uni­form or asso­ciate them­selves with a polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion is either a step below the Nazis or a ter­ror­ist (Peace activists and pro-Palestinian Jews are, of course, excluded).

What I found espe­cially both­er­some is that the novel takes com­plex prob­lems like Mid­dle East con­flicts and ignores infor­ma­tion about why the prob­lems exist. The author seems to want to com­pare the Pales­tini­ans to the Euro­pean Jews dur­ing World War II but really there is no com­par­i­son, and if there is I was not con­vinced at all.

Ms. Coras­anti dra­mat­i­cally describes the injus­tices the Pales­tini­ans are suf­fer­ing such as the bomb­ing of inno­cents in vil­lages and treat­ments by the Israeli sol­diers, but does not men­tion any­thing about sui­cide bombers who blow up buses and pizze­rias. The one sui­cide bomber men­tioned was kind enough to blow him­self up as to not hurt inno­cent peo­ple (a good kid who became a sui­cide bomber in a few days, totally dis­re­gard­ing the months of work and brain wash­ing it takes to get some­one to agree to blow them­selves up). The author goes into details about the mis­treat­ment of inno­cent pris­on­ers in Israeli jails but com­pletely dis­re­gards Israeli pris­on­ers who were dragged in the streets. She extols the virtues of the sim­ple Pales­tine liv­ing and fam­ily val­ues while com­pletely ignor­ing honor killings, behead­ings, abuse of women and more. Nowhere in the book will you find that the Pales­tin­ian lead­ers oppress the Pales­tin­ian peo­ple just as much, if not more, than the Israelis do.

Imag­ine writ­ing a book about the causes of World War II com­pletely ignor­ing the out­come of World War I and you get the picture.

A chunk of the book takes place in the Gaza strip where the author goes on and on describ­ing the deplorable liv­ing con­di­tions and how the Israelis make it worst every day. No men­tion of why Israel closed the areas (mis­siles, sui­cide bombs, weapon smug­gling) or the bil­lions of aid dol­lars that Arafat and his min­ions, as well as later admin­is­tra­tions, siphoned off instead of invest­ing them in infra­struc­ture and business.

And, of course, no men­tion of Arafat's refusal what basi­cally was the best peace deal offered... to any­one... EVER!

The author states that she holds a MA in Mid­dle East­ern Stud­ies, the book does not reflect that.The abuse of the Pales­tini­ans is pre­sented with­out con­text. The pop­u­la­tion is oppressed but are not even par­tially respon­si­ble at all for the oppres­sion. Extreme groups, both Pales­tin­ian and Jew­ish, who are respon­si­ble for much of the cri­sis are com­pletely ignored and the Israelis are blamed from top to bottom.

What do most peo­ple want?
To end the week with their fam­i­lies safe and enough money to splurge on pizza and a beer.
The Israelis and Pales­tini­ans are not dif­fer­ent in that regard, but the fringe ele­ments -- usu­ally those on both sides who make money on the con­flict -- keep things heated.

Ms. Coras­santi is a smart lady, she has a BA from Hebrew Uni­ver­sity, a MA from Har­vard, and a law degree -- and now she wrote a dan­ger­ous book.
Why dan­ger­ous?
Because the une­d­u­cated audi­ence would take her word as the whole truth, and noth­ing but the truth!
I have read books of this type before, but at the end there is always an appen­dix or an author's note putting the story in his­tor­i­cal or social con­text -- this is not the case.

Over­all I thought the book was good, but being hit over the head con­stantly with a biased view is sim­ply not to my lik­ing (even if it was agree­able to me). I pre­fer to be pre­sented the facts and be able to make up my own mind. How­ever, the book did give me much to think about and pre­sented a story from a dif­fer­ent view point.

Dis­claimer: I got this book for free
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 2013
I feel truly privileged to have been given the opportunity to read such a beautifully written yet heartbreaking book.
The Almond Tree is so raw and emotionally intense...it really made me appreciate everything I am blessed with it life.
I cried while reading the first chapter...and many times after, and then again at the end.
Michelle Cohen Corasanti has produced a sad but wonderful piece of art that will forever hold a place in my heart.
This definitely did not seem anything like a first novel. It was very well written and reads more like a memoir than fiction. In fact, I found it hard to believe that it was not actually a true story.
Regardless, the people of the Middle East have lived through similar, and much worse situations, which is what makes this book so heartbreaking.
Its sad to think that such misery still goes on in some parts of the world even after so many years of suffering.
I wish that someday people will realize that we are all equal and that absolutely nothing is accomplished with violence. Until then, I hope for them all to find their own Almond Tree.

I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2013
I've looked for and read many books about the mid-east, trying to understand what the impetus was to kill more than 3000 innocent American citizens on 9/11. This beautifully written and simply told story says it all. "The Almond Tree" grabs you from the start, telling about a family who lived through devastating, heart-breaking experiences, while still trying desperately to maintain a semblance of normalcy for their children. It struck me as incredulous to read about the atrocities they suffered at the hands of the Israeli's; much the same as what the Jews had suffered during the Holocaust. How can this be - that those who were once so down-trodden and abused, turn around and perpetuate the same on others??

As I read, I felt sure the author was a man, and forgetting that this is fiction, I wondered why I hadn't read about Ichmad Hamid, and his accomplishments. In my opinion, "The Almond Tree" compares with "The Kite Runner," "The Help," and "Cutting for Stone," stories that have stayed with me long after I finished reading them. I applaud Michelle Cohen Corasanti, and will be waiting eagerly for her second book.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 2012
"...May the battles that we fight be for the advancement of humanity."

This remarkable story is one that comes from the author's inner core, crafted by her personal experiences that make this a raw, candid read that contains such poignancy and intensity as to really touch your heart. Michelle Cohen Corasanti is brave to bear her soul to the world, but it takes not only strength of character but determination to present to the world a `real' picture of how things are and to push forward with ones own beliefs as a free human being. The Palestinian dominance within Israel is the central focus of this detailed, thought-provoking narrative as the author wanted to help bring about peace to the Middle East. I feel so privileged to be able to hold this extraordinary work of fiction within the palm of my hand, and to have the opportunity of exploring new things by these words that moved me to tears...hence I can honestly say that this book is quite special.

One follows the story of Ichmad Hamid as he struggles through life in the knowledge that he can do nothing, and is utterly and completely helpless to save his friends and family. Living on occupied land his entire village operates in constant fear of loosing all that they hold most dear; including their homes, jobs and belongings but most importantly each other. Ichmad's twelfth birthday unknowingly to him is the catalyst for great change, as his world is suddenly & unexpectedly turned upside down...His father is imprisoned and his family's home and belongings are confiscated, amidst his other siblings soon succumbing to hatred in the face of great conflict. Ichmad then begins an inspiring journey using his intellect to try and save his poor dying family, and in doing so he reclaims a love for others that was lost through childhood violence, hence hope is kindle...

This stunning story embodies the true meaning of love and selflessness, and that great fight that the main character goes through for trying to save all that matters to him in life. It shows readers the actual meaning of life by presenting to one, quite openly the horrors that take place within the far corners of this world and that as you read will take place whilst one contemplates upon this message. Sometimes one must fight for what they believe in, for what you deem to be right and just and for those that you love (consisting of your entire world). There is so much injustice, so much hatred in the world and the divide within social hierarchy is still widening constantly, as new leaders rule with different ideals and those who oppose them feel such wrath.

This story really moved me, affected me deeply and which would strike a chord in all our hearts for regardless of whether we come from other continents, speak in different tongues and live by different cultures we all are united together due to the power of LOVE. This in effect is what makes us human and is our adversary's greatest weakness, for though we always strive for peace there is a war raging in another corner of the world.

*I would like to take this opportunity of thanking the author for having her book on GoodReads as a `first-read' giveaway.*
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2014
* * * Contains minor spoilers! * * *

I wish I had written this review sooner after finishing the book, but once I postpone something, I postpone it big! My thoughts may not be as fresh anymore, but my amazement at this story continues to stay the same. Hopefully I remember everything I wanted to say when I'd just read it (:

The Almond Tree is set in a time and place which, when combined, I honestly knew almost nothing about. The cruelty shocked me, even if it wasn't really surprising. I've studied European history at school, so I knew some about the Jews, but that's about it. The Almond Tree has opened my eyes to another part of this world and I admit I feel embarrassed for hearing about the Arab-Israeli conflict for the first time from this very book.

Ichmad's story was eerily realistic and felt more like a biography (though I've never read one) than fiction. I've never encountered a book which has made me sympathize with its characters as much as this one did. I was standing right there, watching this family suffer, feeling what they felt, hoping with them. I didn't want them to go through more devastation as they already had, but there always seemed to be this hopelessness keeping this family in its clutches. There was so much and too many people they lost. However, Ichmad didn't give up and that's what granted him a better future. Its beautifully flowing writing made the book even more enjoyable, and the pace was just right.

The characters were likeable, mostly because they weren't just words on paper, they were real. We could see their development over the years, especially Ichmad's as he got over his hate. He wasn't only bright when it came to science, his father was a great example for him and I think he saved Ichmad in many ways. In fact, I think Ichmad's Baba was my most favourite character in this whole book.

I never stopped loving Abbas too, even with the path he took. I felt extremely sorry when he had the accident as a kid, and when his son died near the ending of the story. Khaled's suicide was deeply saddening purely because of the idea why he did it. I don't hate many things, I definitely don't hate any person, but if there's something I do absolutely loathe, it's wars, and people's disgusting need for power.

There's someone else I can't leave unmentioned, and that's professor Sharon. I deeply disliked him at first, so it's all the more astonishing how much I came to like his character. His and Ichmad's relationship as they worked together was truly heartwarming. I'm the kind of person that keeps emotions in and only rarely releases them, usually all together in a burst when I'm alone. That also means I don't cry easily when reading about a sad incident in a book or seeing something sad in a movie. But somehow, in the end, when Ichmad and Sharon made their speech to the whole world, I had tears in my eyes. It's abuse and the sensitivity of the soul that can affect me the most.

Of course no book is perfect if it's looked at through the eyes of a critic. I simply can't remember any details I didn't quite like, but I know they weren't anything big. Perhaps what bothered me the most was that dialogue was like 'this' instead of "this".

I wish this book was translated into my home tongue, Estonian, not because I found it hard to read in English - in fact I'm sure the original edition is the most pure - but because I want other people to read it too. Michelle Cohen Corasanti is an amazing writer, even more so knowing her background. For one, I've always found, and still do, that this land's traditions are a little odd, but it never bothered me because the author made me understand. Let me say this book was worth every second of my time. I never thought I'd love a historical realistic fiction - two genres that barely get my attention - so much. It's definitely a story I would recommend.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2014
One of the first things that I noted about The Almond Tree was that it was written by a Jewish woman about a Palestinian boy and his family starting with the conflict in 1948. The young Arab boy was a math genus, in a country occupied by enemies of his people that kept his devotion to his family values, but rose about the military state of the politics in his country to get an education and make something of himself.

The influence of his peace loving father, who was wrongfully imprisoned is inspirational and like all parents he faced dangers to protect his children and family. The mother didn't understand her son's need for an education but she did instill in him the values of his culture and the importance of family.

The description of the countryside, the war zone, the destruction and lack of respect of life, even for small children caught in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that started with the formation of the Israeli State in 1948. The land and territory for this state was taken from people with traditions and that had owned the land for many generations, so it is not surprising the conflict continues to this day.

The book is extremely well written with a plot that starts in 1948 until the present time today. It offers ideas for peace in general terms but the solutions for two strong cultures wanting the same land is not an easy one to find. One of the purposes of fiction is to give the reader material that is thought provoking and The Almond Tree does that excellently. If you write about a controversy, some people will love what you write and others will disagree with your point of view; The Almond Tree gave a good presentation of the views of both side.

I want to thank the Michelle Cohen-Corasanti and Good Reads First giveaway program for giving me the opportunity to win and read The Almond Tree.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2014
The UN Women/USNC Gulf Coast Book Club met on Monday, January 13, 2014 to discuss The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti. Corasanti majored in Middle Eastern Studies at Hebrew University and Harvard, and trained as a lawyer in international and human rights. She was traumatized by her experience in Israel during the intifada, when she lived in a house with Palestinian families, and witnessed the unbridled violence that Jews and Muslims inflicted upon each other. Years later, inspired by The Kite Runner, specifically a line therein to the effect that history, religion and politics cannot be overcome, she decided to write a story that might, in fact, help to direct those forces onto a more humanitarian path. "The past has a way of clawing itself out," she writes.

The Almond Tree tells a painful tale of Ichmad Hamid, a Palestinian boy whose family and community living on occupied land is destroyed in increments by Israeli military attacks. Ichmad's beloved family disintegrates, wherein lie several parallel stories: his brother joins Hamas, his father is imprisoned, his mother and siblings left destitute. But Ichmad follows his father's advice, though it often seems impossibly idealistic, to use his intelligence at all times and resist succumbing to hate and fear. Ichmad pursues his studies and attains a scholarship to Hebrew University, where he is ridiculed and persecuted, but he hangs onto his father's directives, and studies tenaciously until one of his Israeli professors recognizes Ichmad's genius. Professor Sharon appoints him to be his paid assistant, advising him on his master`s degree, as Ichmad co-writes articles with him published in the Journal of Physics. Ichmad wins a scholarship to MIT, where he obtains his PhD, and Professor Sharon and he work together to eventually win a Nobel Prize. By then their friendship has transcended all cultural biases.

Ichmad falls in love with an American Jewish girl. They overcome great obstacles to marry, but living happily ever after is not their lot. Upon their return to Jerusalem Nora is killed in a military assault. "Nothing will ever be right in my life again," Ichmad laments. But he eventually agrees to an arranged marriage which brings as much fulfillment and contentment as is possible in the long suffering that marks his life.

The UN Women Book Club has been reading books for seven years by women authors, mostly from developing countries. We look for story, style, significance and a learning experience. The Almond Tree provided us with all those qualities, as well as a deeper understanding of Palestinian people and the causes that fuel their conflict with Israelis. We were impressed by this powerful story that asserts the possibility of "making this world a better place".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2014
I only give a book 5 stars if it is one that affects me to the point that I feel I need to discuss it with everyone around me. This is one of those books. This is the story of Ichmad, a Palestinian living in Israel. On Ichmad’s twelfth birthday, he finds himself the man of the house when his father is sent to prison. Ichmad must try to support his mother and siblings, while continuing his own education. He is a mathematical genius, and the local school teacher will not allow him to stop his education, but insists on tutoring him in the evenings, after Ichmad has completed his day’s work. Life is a constant struggle – but Ichmad never gives up. Baba, his father, even though in prison, is Ichmad’s guiding light – and constantly supports and advices him.
This book is a very moving, emotional read about the situation in the Middle East, told from a pro-Palestinian point of view. According to the short biography on the back cover of the book, Ms. Corasanti herself is Jewish, and has several degrees in Middle Eastern studies. I find it very interesting that she chose to write a book in which “her people” are the “bad guys.” I am sure it would have been much easier for her to write the story of a Jewish boy growing up in Israel at the same time. I also understand from author interviews that this novel is based on a person she met while she was in college.
If I had to find one fault with the novel, it would be that it seems the main character and his family are subject to every bad (and good) thing that happened to any Palestinian between 1955 and 2009. I do understand, however, that sometimes authors do this to make a point – in this case, she was trying to tell how badly the Palestinians were treated by the Israel government.
I won this book through the Goodreads’ Firstreads program. I am so glad I did.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2014
[...]

Book Review: The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti: A Beautiful Mind

The Almond Tree written by Michelle Cohen Corasanti is a story of a character larger than life itself. It is a journey comprising of despair, hunger, fear, death, life, joy, happiness, courage, sacrifice and determination. These words are less to explain what you will experience in your heart and mind while reading this book. Credit goes to the author for conceptualizing and scripting this beautiful story so brilliantly.

Story of The Almond Tree is about a 12 years old child born in one of the Palestinian families living like slaves in a country that was once their own -Israel. Under these dire conditions members of these families were not allowed to go for a respectable job, for studies, for a well built house, for any good opportunities in their life. They could only opt for the least living standards, lowest possible work, no possibilities of growth and then their each and every move is under the supervision of army. Ahmed under such painful and stressful conditions had to see a lot during his childhood - death of his siblings due to various unwanted situations, getting his father jailed for no crime, getting debarred form their house and ultimately moving from bad to worse situation in life. But one symbolic companion that kept inspiring, motivating and helping Ahmed is an almond tree that is grown outside his house.

An Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti is journey of Ahmed from his childhood to his sixties and achieving and living an extraordinary life due to his determination and inner power. At some juncture the story reminded me of the movie A Beautiful Mind maybe because of the excellence with which both - the movie and this book - have been conceptualized, or maybe because of certain resemblances in the two. The story starts in the year 1955 and goes up to 2009 during which Ahmed Hamid went through various stages encountering various inspiring characters - like his father, his childhood teacher, his first love, his professor (who first was totally against Palestinians/ Jews, being an Israeli himself); and more than those the characters who tried to downtrend/ demean him from time to time.

There are some excellent quotes in this book that the readers would love to go through on pages - 68, 72, 123, 127, 129, 240, 247, 298. There was a small proofreading mistake on page 252 where cheeks was mentioned as checks.

I would give this book 5 out of 5 and would recommend it to readers interested in historical fiction, classical fiction, war fiction, general fiction.
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