The Sine and the Fury
By Michelle Cohen Corasanti
Garnet Publishing, $14.95, 348 pages
The Almond Tree tells the story of Ichmad Hamid, a Palestinian boy from a formerly-prosperous family whose fortunes have been drastically altered by the encroachment of the Israeli state. Beginning in 1955 with the horrific land-mine death of his youngest sibling, Ichmad’s story is full of conflict and suffering, as one after another of his family members have their lives forever altered or ruined by the Jewish settlers who have taken over their land. However, armed with an uncanny gift for mathematics and science, as well as a father who pushes him to strive and succeed, Ichmad is able to overcome much adversity, even as bitterness and fury claim some of those closest to them.
While author Michelle Cohen Corasanti, who spent seven years living in Israel, seeks to tell a human story with The Almond Tree, the book feels almost too brief, as if we are only allowed rough sketches of people and belief systems, none of which feel fully fleshed out. Ichmad’s genius is a bit too canny and, likewise, the behavior of many Israelis is too predictably villainous for my tastes. While endeavoring to teach us about human nature, Corasanti has sold her characters a bit short—perhaps 150 pages too short.
Reviewed by Ashley McCall