Book Review: The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti

Almond Tree Book CoverThe Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti
“An epic drama of the proportions of The Kite Runner… Grabs you from the first page… A gripping and compassionate work of fiction”
—Huffington Post

The unforgettable story of a young Palestinian boy whose mathematical gifts allow him to escape the difficulties of life as an Arab Israeli, The Almond Tree is a beautifully crafted debut novel written by a Jewish American woman from the perspective of a Palestinian Muslim male. It is about the power of love, the price of hatred, and the possibility of redemption.

Even as a young boy Ahmed Hamid struggles with knowing that he can do nothing to save his friends and family. Coming of age under Israeli martial law, his entire village operates in fear of losing their homes, jobs, and belongings. But more importantly, they fear losing each other.

On Ahmed’s twelfth birthday, that fear becomes reality.

With his father imprisoned, his family’s home and possessions confiscated, and his beloved brother Abbas succumbing to hatred in the face of conflict, Ahmed must find a way to care for his family and find a better future for himself. Gifted with a mind that can solve mathematical equations, he uses his intellect to take an inspiring journey that will lead him from his war-torn homeland to a life in America he could never have imagined for himself.

A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of half a century of conflict, The Almond Tree is a powerful novel that allows us to walk in one extraordinary Palestinian’s shoes and see the world through his eyes.

“Corasanti’s accomplished debut novel offers a humanistic look into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…Sensitive, moving…” —Kirkus Reviews



Praise for The Almond Tree

“The story is spell-binding with universal appeal…”
The Daily Star
” …a strong addition to coming of age fiction collections, highly recommended.”
The MidwestBook Review

“…one of the most riveting books I have read…
Corasanti takes a realistic premise and builds an interesting and highly believable story that only gets better as the pages fly by. While “The Almond Tree” is a fictional tale, much of it is based on the truth of what is today’s world, and as such there is also an important message located within. I highly recommend this book.”
Charline Ratcliff / Rebecca’s Reads

Almond Tree Author



Author Michelle Cohen Corasanti

Michelle Cohen Corasanti received a BA from Hebrew University in Jerusalem and an MA from Harvard University, both in Middle Eastern Studies. A Jewish American, she lived in Israel for seven years and was married to a Palestinian Muslim for several years afterwards. Nearly a decade in the making, The Almond Tree grew out of the many stories Michelle heard and witnessed while living with Palestinians and Israeli friends and family she knew and loved in Israel and at Harvard. She currently lives in New York with her family.

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Mama always said Amal was mischievous. It was a joke we shared as a family – that my sister, just a few years old and shaky on her pudgy legs, had more energy for life than me and my younger brother Abbas combined. So when I went to check on her and she wasn’t in her crib, I felt a fear in my heart that gripped me and would not let go.

It was summer and the whole house breathed slowly from the heat. I stood alone in her room, hoping the quiet would tell me where she’d stumbled off to. A white curtain caught a breeze. The window was open – wide open. I rushed to the ledge, praying that when I looked over she wouldn’t be there, she wouldn’t be hurt. I was afraid to look, but I did anyway because not knowing was worse. Please God, please God, please God…

There was nothing below but Mama’s garden: colourful flowers moving in that same wind.

Downstairs, the air was filled with delicious smells, the big table laden with yummy foods. Baba and I loved sweets, so Mama was making a whole lot of them for our holiday party tonight.

‘Where’s Amal?’ I stuck a date cookie in each of my pockets when her back was turned. One for me and the other for Abbas.

‘Napping.’ Mama poured the syrup onto the baklava.

‘No, Mama, she’s not in her crib.’

‘Then where is she?’ Mama put the hot pan in the sink and cooled it with water that turned to steam.


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My thoughts:

This is one of the most thought provoking books which will touch you to the depths of your soul much like the Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseni. A story that puts forth the reality and way of life at the time of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and demonstrates the harsh reality through the eyes of the protagonist. We follow his life as he faces the death of family members, his father’s imprisonment, his need to study, excel and make a better life, the death of his wife and one true love and finally how he learns to love again.

The story has been handled sensitively and though it is a work of fiction, it manages to convey a lot of truth about the people and places at that time. It is a gripping story and is so well written that there is not one moment when the reader will feel like putting the book down. The story gets better and better as it progresses and though we are shown many horrifying things, we are compelled to turn to the next page to discover what happens.

The author has crafted her characters beautifully and we can see the variety of personalities. Right from the protagonist Ahmed Hamid, to his father who always encourages him to follow his dreams, his mother who doesn’t understand his need to study and make a better life for all of them, his brother Abbas who was close to him while growing up starts to think that he has betrayed them and become friends with the enemy whereas in reality all he does is mingle with people who are intellectually sound and who can rise beyond who they are and where they are from to form bonds of friendship for life.

This is a story that everyone should read. It is an experience that no-one should miss.

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