In this book, Carner gives an extremely intimate look into the lives of Ultra Orthodox Judaism in Israel, something that most of us have never really been exposed to. I learned a lot about Judaism in general from this book, and even more so about the particulars of this very right-wing, conservative branch of the faith.
I’ve read a few YA books already about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, notably The Shepherd’s Granddaughter and Where the Streets Had A Name. Both of those, however, were written from the point of view of a Palestinian child; while The Book of Trees is also written from the point of view of a teenager, the narrator (Mia) is a bit of an outsider and an insider all at once (Canadian and Jewish), and not Palestinian. It’s because of her that character I wanted to read this book, thinking it would be nice to read about the conflict from a different perspective.
This book surprised me, in a good way. I read a bunch of reviews about it a few months back, and thought that it looked interesting, but wasn’t sure about whether I’d enjoy it. I tend not to enjoy books that are written about people’s spiritual lives, though there are some exceptions. One of those exceptions is that I really enjoy reading about people’s struggles with their religion, and their struggle to reconcile their religion with society or with the religions of other people around them.
Croc’s story is told in alternating chapters; the remaining chapters are narrated by Fahmi Sabich, a Palestinian who is in a coma in the hospital, and whose life has become intertwined with Croc’s throughout the story. In this way, Gavron has given the reader two very different perspectives on the conflict in Israel and occupied Palestine, letting us sympathize with both Croc and Fahmi. Both are generally presented in a neutral light, allowed to tell their own stories.