A vivid account of star-crossed lovers in the maelstrom of Middle Eastern politics.
The 77-year-old Israeli author, born in Baghdad, debuts here with a tale set in 1982. In a little house in the Arab quarter of Haifa, narrator Huda lives under one roof with her grandfather, her mother, and her sister Mary. Christians on an island of Muslims surrounded by a sea of Jews, Huda and her family are used to sticking out in the crowd and have long since learned to get by. Huda’s father was dispossessed by the Israeli government in 1948 and her uncles were deported to Jordan for sedition, but Huda works happily for a Jewish travel agency and thinks of herself as more Israeli than Arab. A good thing, too, since Huda’s family is soon thrown into some confusion when their landlord rents out the roof (this is the Middle East, remember) to a Jewish settler from Russia. Alex is a good-natured engineering student who can’t even speak Hebrew (much less Arabic) and seems happiest when he’s practicing his trumpet late at night. Huda’s family is at first suspicious of him, but they are charmed by his simplicity—and they’re won over when he defends them from the murderous advances of Mary’s hoodlum boyfriend Zuhair, who breaks into the house one night and attacks Mary with a knife. Eventually, Alex and Huda fall in love, bringing about not the end of the story but its beginning. For, although Huda’s family are willing to accept her marriage to a Jew, Alex’s mother isn’t approving of the match—and the situation soon becomes even more complicated when Alex signs on with an elite unit of Israeli army commandos just as the Intifada begins to heat up. Will there be a place for Huda and Alex to live happily ever after? The odds aren’t good—but that’s never stopped doomed lovers before.
A fresh take on a very old story: elegant and enriched with real understanding.