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Martyrs' Crossing: A Novel Hardcover – March 8, 2001


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (March 8, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684854368
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684854366
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,997,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A former Jerusalem correspondent for the New Yorker and 1990 National Book Critics Circle nonfiction nominee, Wilentz supplements a natural storyteller's eye for character with a reporter's grasp of swirling political detail in this complex, haunting debut novel. At a checkpoint in Jerusalem, a beautiful young Palestinian woman begs an Israeli soldier for permission to "cross over" in order to get her two-year-old son to the hospital. The soldier, Lt. Ari Doron, frantically telephones headquarters, but is rebuffed by an anonymous commander: the woman is Marina Raad Hajimi, wife of jailed Hamas terrorist Hassan Hajimi, and therefore presumptively barred from Israel during a border "closure." Within minutes, the child dies, devastating family members on both sides of the checkpoint. It turns out the little boy was the grandson of American cardiologist George Raad, a secular Palestinian patriot whose iconoclastic views are courted, but largely ignored, by the Palestinian leadership. Despite his failing health, George returns to Ramallah to be with his bereaved daughter and to shelter her from the gathering political storm, as Palestinian discontents gear up to play "Find the Soldier." The soldier, meanwhile, plagued with guilt over "his dead baby," is unable to stay out of Ramallah, where he seeks absolution from Marina and George before the newly liberated Hajimi finds him. Characters on both sides of the border are nuanced, sympathetic and deeply ambivalent, which heightens the well-crafted suspense: you don't know what will happen next because neither do they. Wilentz's insight into the region is so sharp that even the maelstrom she depicts is vivid and comprehensible, a full-fledged human tragedy from every perspective. Agent, Deborah Karl. (Mar.)Forecasts: The timeliness of this story, plus Wilentz's writing credentials, make this a sure shot for review attention and healthy sales.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-In this well-crafted novel, Wilentz looks through the eyes of her sharply drawn characters to explore both the objective issues and the subjective realities that form the fabric of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. An ill Palestinian child dies at an Israeli-border checkpoint while the young post commander is pressing headquarters for permission to allow the boy and his mother to cross into Israel for medical care. The Palestinian political leaders proclaim the boy a martyr, rallying crowds with a cry for vengeance: "Find the soldier." The Israeli military's doctor fashions a version of the event to shield the army from blame. From this realistic beginning, Martyrs' Crossing dramatizes how easily tragic events escalate into violence. The mother of the dead boy is American-born Marina Hajimi, who married Hassan, a Palestinian. A Hamas activist, he is imprisoned in Israel. Marina's father is an eminent American cardiologist, an intellectual who fled Palestine with his family in 1948 and who is critical of a Palestinian authority he believes is corrupt. Lieutenant Ari Doron, empathetic and "unassailably honest," finds himself affected by the pain and the beauty of this woman whose son is dead because he refused to disobey orders. The major characters are principled people, torn by grief and guilt but unwilling to be manipulated for political purposes. Some of the other characters are less nobly motivated. Teens who are interested in the Middle East will come away from the novel with a better understanding of why the conflict so defies resolution.

Ellen Raphaeli, Northern Virginia Community College, Alexandria

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


More About the Author

I grew up in a small, industrial town in New Jersey, a place unimaginably distant in every way from my latest home in Los Angeles, where I live with my husband and three sons. I moved to California as Arnold Schwarzenegger was making his political debut, and I wrote a book about it. But since the earthquake in Port-au-Prince in January, my heart has returned with a crash to Haiti, the country that made me, as a writer. Haitians are still dealing every day with the horror and reality of the quake. And in my way, I'm still wrestling with what it means to me to lose so much and so many. My reaction has been to write, of course -- and to attempt to focus the proper kind of outside attention on Haiti. But I'm also trying in my own way to be of use; helping to support a little boy who lost both hands when a wall fell on him, trying to put together a library of images of Haitian art that was destroyed in the quake, and even thinking about going down to help rebuild, although I am definitely more efficient with a keyboard than with a hammer. Meanwhile, my publisher is reissuing The Rainy Season, my book about Haiti, with a new, post-quake introduction. I'm amazed at how I continue to be drawn to the country and to identify with it -- to feel shattered when it is shattered, to be happy on the rare days when things are going well, to be okay in those long stretches when things are pretty much all right. I trust in a lot of cliches in these moments of enormous tragedy, the main one being this: maybe out of the rubble will emerge something new, maybe even something better, but something still beautiful, still authentic, still Haitian.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 29 customer reviews
I found the writing here stilted and the plot, tedious.
Gertrude Wellikoff
Wilentz has a talent for character and for realistic thoughts/dialogue.
Nancy C. Pace
The characters in the book put a human face on the conflict.
David Dugan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Nancy C. Pace on November 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
What novel could be more timely and inviting than an intelligent, literate, readable, suspenseful, emotionally compelling, and thoughtful story treating the question: What--among the varied human experiences of family, friendship, history, culture, religion, tradition, heritage, territory, nationhood, ideals, values, competing loyalties, and the notion of truth itself--is worth living for, working for--and especially--killing and/or dying for?
To be sure, Wilentz never comes right out and asks these questions--instead, her beautifully plotted story subtly raises, explores, and offers insight into all of them, by offering a wide range of intelligent characters from varying ages, backgrounds, and experiences, who are arriving at a multiplexity of conclusions and viewpoints while facing intricately intertwined human dilemmas.
I know this book will provoke animated and thoughtful discussion in my book club.
I was first attracted to the book (when browsing in the "New Book Section" of our library) by Wilentz's beautiful writing style, as well as her very evident intellectual depth. She has clearly spent much time living in and reporting on Israel/The West Bank, but more importantly, she has thought long and respectfully about disparate approaches to politics, patriotism, and violence.
This is not a heavy, depressing book, it's a love story--in fact a compilation of moving and convincing love stories about the varieties of passionate human relationships. It's gripping--at times seeming to move inexorably toward a Greekly tragic conclusion (although I found the end surprisingly heartening.) I felt I understood each character's struggle to find integrity and meaning; Wilentz works hard to give each viewpoint a human face and a convincing history and testimony.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Better reporters than Amy Wilentz have found themselves caught short by the transition from journalism to fiction (for example Jimmy Breslin, whose novels always leave me hungry for his column). But im Martyr's Crossing Amy Wilentz has vaulted across in her very first attempt. The story takes an incident that could be from today's headlines (and, tragically, tomorrow's headlines as well): the death of a child in Israel. In this case, the child is killed by asthma and the lack of proper medical treatment, not by a bullet. Also in this case the child is Palestinian. But part of the triumph of this book is the way Wilentz's characters--Israelis and Palestinians--are three dimensional human beings, not cardboard caricatures of good and evil.
There are terrorists here, and terror, and the cold political calculations of men determined to hold on to power, willing to exploit any tragedy if it serves their purposes. But Wilentz's humane and gripping narrative is a million miles from the wooden gestures of the politcal thriller. The center of her attention, and ours, is the boy's mother, Marina, American born and educated, but drawn back to the Palestine described by her father, a Harvard professor. Wilentz's description of the tensions and passions between father and daughter is superb, as is her portrayal of the almost unendurable sorrow of a mother powerless to keep her child alive. But what makes the novel even more exceptional is Wilentz's equally compelling portrayal of the Israeli who first keeps Marina from passing his checkpoint (and getting her son to the hospital) then valiantly, but vainly, attempts to help.
Wilentz offers no easy answers. Instead, she allows both sides the full weight of their tragic collision. Beautifully written, and clearly informed by careful reporting, this is a triumphant fictional debut.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on April 22, 2001
Format: Hardcover
On the jacket a comment is made that the Author takes what are normally, "journalistic subjects, and shows their internal life". This is a goal difficult to achieve however noble, with a subject that has been presented so vividly and visually for decades. I enjoyed the book but I did not feel this particular point was reached, and again that may have been due to the storyline unfolding a tale that while terrible is nauseatingly familiar. The incident in this book is tragic and graphic, and as pathetic as it may be the images are as familiar in Oklahoma as they are in this Checkpoint locale. I am not suggesting they are a daily occurrence here as they are elsewhere, just that people's attitudes toward those they view as different are the norm not the exception. Those same people are willing to harm other groups with the same ease with which they hate.
The violence that consumes those people and the lands they dispute are in a continuous loop of violence like other perpetual fights elsewhere in the world. The more disturbing part of this story is the degree to which the violence is manipulated, the citizens on either side used and their feelings motivated/created through propaganda and truths that are omitted. The Author also took a gutsy and praiseworthy stance of the hypocrisy of religion, the tool it has become, and in some cases how irrelevant it has made itself. In one part of the book she focuses on religious proclamations by the highest of their religion and shows them for what they are, totally meaningless and bereft of any value. As a counterpoint to the story she is relating I thought that worked very well.
Ms. Amy Wilnetz has taken both sides to task in, "Martyrs' Crossing". And while it would be foolish to expect this book will change what we see on CNN routinely, optimists can hope that each time the story is told, the effort made, some progress will be gained as well.
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