All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Before We Say Goodbye – Gabriella Ambrosio

on October 11, 2010

This was the first book I tackled for Dewey’s 24hr Read-A-Thon. I picked it up from the Book Depository in the first order I did with them after reading a review on The Book Whisperer. I’ve mentioned before I have a long standing interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that comes from my studies in political science and international relations. I’ve written a couple of papers on it and although I’ve slacked off in recent years on keeping up with the issues as much as I did, I still take an interest. So I wanted to read this book the moment I heard about it.

Before We Say Goodbye is written as a third person narrative switching between quite a few people in the lead up to a terrorist suicide bombing. Dima, a Palestinian girl of eighteen who is thinking of her future – marriage to her cousin Faris, further studies, quite a lot of freedom. Myriam, a Jewish girl of the same age has yet to recover from the loss of her best friend Michael, who himself was the victim of a bombing recently. They had plans to return to America, where they had both lived at various times in their lives, looking to return to the land of the free. That plan has been cut short now and Myriam is lost. She doesn’t know what she wants to do. Abraham is a store security guard, possessed of an uncanny ability to know when someone is walking into his store with plans. Plans that could be deadly. He receives a call in the morning and is given the choice of two locations and he chooses the supermarket so that he may get home early to spend time with his younger wife and their two sons. It is a choice that will end his life. Ghassan is 23, a Palestinian and explosives expert who is co-ordinating the next attack. He is meeting with the young girl who has made the choice of self-sacrifice.

Before We Say Goodbye is a tiny novel, clocking in at just 145 pages. Each ‘chapter’ is an hour out of the eventful day, clocking in with each character so that we can see what they are doing. Starting at 7am and ending at 2pm when the bomb goes off, the author manages to pack the small novel full of thoughts, emotions and actions. There is no judgement here, there is no preaching. There is no Israeli propaganda, there is no Palestinian propaganda. That isn’t the point. You are given just a snippet of this conflict, just an insight into the lives of two similar girls – same age, who live near each other and study, who have seen terrible things as a part of their everyday lives. Who have faced losses and felt anger. One of them makes a choice, to fight back against the injustices she has seen, to bring about the kind of suffering she has experienced. She is determined to take out many – her life is worth a hundred lives!

This novel has been made required reading for high schoolers in the author’s native Italy and in universities in countries like Australia. It has been published in both Hebrew and Arabic and is used in both Israel and Palestine as an education tool which I think is just an incredible thing.  If you’re interested in reading a wholly non-judgmental book free of opinions and bias then this really is a book you should pick up. It’s so many things – engrossing, insightful, balanced and the translation, by Alastair McEwan, is perfect . I’ve already moved it to the top of Rob’s TBR pile!


(Book #73 of my 75 Book Challenge)

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