From Publishers Weekly
This debut novel, written by a woman who experienced firsthand the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the 1980s, weaves the horrors of war with the love and devotion of family. Ruba is seven years old, living in a small Christian village outside of Beirut during the Israeli invasion. Her father is depressed and lethargic; her older brother, Naji, avoids the family, more interested in guns and the local thugs. As the conflict draws closer to the town, causing acts of inhumanity based on religious differences, Ruba learns a secret from her father's past that forces her to face the reality and cruelty around her. Abi-Ezzi walks the delicate tightrope between man's inhumanity and the power and strength family members must draw upon in order to survive. The book is beautifully written, lyrical, with vivid, sensual descriptions that are sophisticated yet completely believable as experienced and retained by a child. (My bedroom smelt of cotton and books, Mami and Papi's room smelled of ironed sheets.) This disturbing, beautiful book, in turn hopeful and despairing, brings clarity and compassion to an untenable situation. (July)
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Growing up in a Christian Maronite family in Lebanon in the early 1980s, Ruba, nine, hears the bombs exploding in distant Beirut. Papi blames the Palestinians: why does he hate them? What has made him unable to leave the house? And why is Ruba’s older brother, Naji, so angry? Where is he going at night with a gun? True to the child’s bewildered viewpoint, this stirring first novel by a Lebanese writer shows the terror of civilians caught up in violent conflict. The adults’ attempts to answer Ruba’s innocent questions provide backstory for the reader on the politics of the region. Yet, for the young girl, the answers explain nothing. And, as the mortar shells reach Ruba’s street, injuring her brother, it is hard for her to know who is fighting whom––Israelis, Palestinians, Christians, Muslims. Both the casualties and some perpetrators are people she knows. Rooted in the child’s experience, the haunting story raises elemental global issues that are part of headlines today. --Hazel Rochman