From Publishers Weekly
This novel of a Palestinian girl growing up amid the intifada is packed with historical facts, but never rises above mediocrity. Philanthropist Hind Husseini creates a children's shelter in 1948 in response to the destruction wrought by the first Arab-Israeli war. Decades later, Miral comes into Hind's care after her mother kills herself. As Miral witnesses the effects of the Israeli campaigns against the intifada, she draws closer to the political fringes, finally choosing to join the struggle in full. Yet the benevolent influence of Hind and an eye-opening friendship with an Israeli socialist subdues Miral's radicalism and offers some hope for the future. Jebreal is a successful journalist in Italy, and true to form the plot rips along with quick-reading prose, though the characters' simplicity presents a big problem, in that, despite the dire circumstances, it's hard to connect with archetypes. It's perfectly serviceable and offers a reliable refresher of the Palestinian struggle, but there are many more distinguished novels on the subject.
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After the 1948 war, Hind Husseini set up an orphanage and boarding school in Jerusalem for homeless Palestinian girls. In this gripping historical novel based on Husseinis efforts, Palestinian-born Italian journalist Jebreal focuses on the girls Hind saves, including Miral, and the young men and adults they know. As Miral grows up, she teaches in desperate refugee camps in the West Bank, witnesses Israeli terror (including soldiers breaking the arms of children who throw stones), joins young activists in the Occupied Territories, and falls in love. She also befriends a young Jewish peace activist. The individual viewpoints are the strength of the story, which presents the family and political history from many sides, including Palestinian girls oppressed by Arab regimes and at home, as well as by the Israeli Occupation. There is loathing for collaborators. But are peace negotiations betrayal? After her friend is shot dead in a demonstration, should Miral throw a Molotov cocktail? There are few novels that show the personal conflict in such depth and complexity. With a movie forthcoming, this will spark passionate discussion. --Hazel Rochman