This 184 page book about a girl figuring out her past, to accept her present, and plot her future. is not marketed, or perhaps even written as a YA novel, but I’m reviewing it because while the protagonist is in her 20s the book could be enjoyable to ages 15 or so and up, if they are willing to stop trying to understand a lot about the book and are content to just go along for the heartfelt ride.
Jasmine is half Palestinian and half British and when her wealthy mother passes but stipulates to claim her inheritance Jasmine must find her father, the book leaves England and heads to Palestine. To further complicate things she has only 10 days to find a father who has been missing for years, in a land she has only visited once before many years ago.
Once in Palestine, the story takes her from one city to the next and one village to another with pit stops at various historical sites along the way. With lots of fragmented memories, the shadow world of Jinns, and a race against time and around the obstacles of the occupation, Jasmine rediscovers Islam, her family history, and the fears that haunt her. She also meets Josh, a character of questionable allegiances, motives, and background himself, that constantly finds himself able to help Jasmine and possibly himself.
From Jericho and Jerusalem and Batien, Jasmine hears stories about her father from people that know her family, as she pieces it all together and reunites with her family members, she understands her past and works to determine what path her future should take.
WHY I LIKE IT:
I love the backdrop of Palestine and the history and the richness of culture that is brought to light in a surprisingly non political way. The interaction of the different faiths among the villagers and the love of the land is truly palpable.
The part I struggled with was the holes in the story telling, for each page that brought Jasmine closer to answering her one question of where her father is, the reader was given 27 new ones that would never be answered. Where did the wealth come from, how did Jasmine’s parents meet, what were the circumstances that made Jasmine’s dad leave, who is Richard, who was Ali, how old is Jasmine, why are there so many Jinns every where, why is there secret passages in the mountain, how come she trusted Josh, how could Josh get from one city to another in record time, why did the soldiers at the check points know of her family and specifically her father, and most importantly why every time she meets someone that knows her family, why does she run away. It is incredibly frustrating that every time the story hints at what makes her father so famous, or sought after or memorable, or hint at why he disappeared, something interrupts them and the reader is left in the dark, only to have the book end and no really understanding conveyed.
I get why the story is told in pieces, but really the story is confusing in how it is told, and it doesn’t need to be. The author can write and the last 50 pages are really great. For as confused as I was so often, I kept reading because the story is good. There is just a tad too much with diving in to the past to understand the present, the supernatural of the jinn, the reemergence of faded memories and dreams, the political climate, the letters from World War II, that the character dynamics are lost until the end. I care about Jasmine and am curious about Josh, but a little more detail to the relationships the two main characters have with all the other minor characters that they encounter would really make the story soar, and clarify so much.
One thing I didn’t love was the presentation of Jinns, I know it is to add cultural richness and a bit of muddled confusion, but really the story I think is strong enough without the supernatural and character building could have benefited in its place. I also really, really, really wished there was a map and an afterward telling what parts about Palestine and history and the Holy Cities is fact, for those of us that have never been.
Jasmine attempts suicide, jumping out a window. Jasmine also gets drunk a few times in the book before deciding to stop drinking as she doesn’t like who she is when she does. There is some violence and killing talked about but not overtly detailed.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
I don’t think I would do this as a book club book, but I definitely would encourage those with connections to Palestine to read the book. And I am really hoping that someone, anyone, that has read the book will chat about it with me. For all the questions I have, I’m optimistic that I just missed the answers and that they were in fact there.