The blue between sky and water A novel

Susan Abulhawa

Book - 2015

"There was a time when they lived in the village of Beit Daras, and the sun was hot and the earth was rich. There were ruins dating back to the Crusades; now their homes, too, are ruins, and they are refugees in the small strip of Gaza. And yet, when young Khaled dies, and moves on to the afterlife, it is back in Beit Daras that he finds himself. And from here he may slip through history, watching the continuing the story of his matriarchal family. He sees his grandmother, Nazmiyeh, once th...e prettiest, baddest girl in the town, the eternal ringleader. The other girls felt she hung the sky. He sees his mother, Alwan, who loves quietly and strongly, and who sustains the family through her embroidery work, stitching the stars and moon in place. He sees the great-aunts and cousins, and his sunny little sister, Rhet Shel. Finally, there is the branch of the family that moves to Kuwait, and then to America, where Nur, his mother's cousin, begins to lose herself. She will return to Mediterranean shores to find her past, and rediscover the ties of kinship that transcend distance and even death. Born of the violent, troubling history which continues to rage forth and claim its dead, The Blue Between Sky and Water is very much a novel of survival, and of the vivid, powerful women whose world they manage, with each day, to enlarge and to enliven"--Publisher.

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New York : Bloomsbury 2015.
Physical Description
ix, 292 pages ; 22 cm
Main Author
Susan Abulhawa (-)
Review by Booklist Review

Abulhawa (Mornings in Jenin, 2010), a daughter of Palestinian refugees from the 1967 war, offers a second novel steeped in the refugee experience, a tale of four generations of a family forced from their home in Beit Daras, a Palestinian village dating back to the thirteenth century. Abulhawa traces the family's fragile existence in a Gazan refugee camp through profiles of its strong women, starting with Nazmiyeh, who came there soon after her marriage in 1948, following the Israeli attack on Beit Daras. She gives birth to 11 sons over the years, and finally a daughter Alwan, the narrator's mother. The family gradually disperses, one of Nazmiyeh's sons emigrating to Saudi Arabia, one held in an Israeli prison, and her brother, Mamdouh, moving to North Carolina. His son later marries a Spanish-American woman, and their daughter, Nur, is raised with only snippets of information about her Palestinian heritage. A fortuitous contact brings Nur to Gaza, where she meets her long-unknown cousins and aunts and becomes the pivotal character in the final chapters of Abulhawa's enlightening and emotionally involving family saga.--Donovan, Deborah Copyright 2015 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Abulhawa's (Mornings in Jenin) tale of a Palestinian family is suffused with mystery, pain, and love. During the Israeli attack on the camps in Gaza on Dec. 27, 2008, young Khaled experiences something akin to Locked-in syndrome, something that he calls "a place of blue," and from this state he is able to both witness the present and participate in the past. He is real enough to teach his great-aunt Mariam to read back in the family's home village of Beit Daras long before he is born. In the present, Nur, an American-born psychotherapist of Palestinian descent, hears of Khaled and is spurred to travel to Palestine to attempt to help him, not knowing that she is herself a lost member of the family. Nur's own life has been filled with loss and abuse. Her beloved grandfather died before he could bring her back to Gaza, and she was sexually assaulted by her stepfather before being rescued by a loving social worker, Nzinga. In Palestine, Nur finds "life and love and death and will were packed close." Abulhawa's characters' lives vividly depict resiliency in the face of adversity. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

With the number of refugees worldwide at a record high, this novel is particularly relevant and insightful. Abulhawa (Mornings in Jenin) portrays four generations of women living in a Gaza refugee camp, all desperately trying to make the best of an intolerable situation. Nazmiyeh is the matriarch of this extended family, whose members live together under one roof, struggling to maintain their zest for life in what many would see as a hopeless struggle. The love they share proves to be much stronger than the bombings and vicious attacks they are forced to endure. The author, born to Palestinian refugees of the 1967 war, takes her title from a short poem that recurs throughout the story, summing up the philosophy of this refugee family. VERDICT Beautiful and heartfelt, this precise, vividly written novel is an inspiring choice for discussion groups.-Lisa Rohrbaugh, Leetonia Community P.L., OH © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

Abulhawa (Mornings in Jenin, 2010) mixes magical realism, family melodrama, and politics in her storytelling about several generations of Palestinian women trying to survive in Gaza before and during the Israeli occupation. In 1948, soldiers from the newly established state of Israel attack the village of Beit Daras, raping and killing without remorse. Among those killed is Mariam, an unusually gifted child who has been taught to read and write by her friend Khaled. Mariam's sister, Nazmiyeh, assumes Khaled is imaginary until his picture appears in a photograph. Khaled is somehow reborn or transmitted into Nazmiyeh's grandson Khaled, born in 1998. By then, Nazmiyeh's brother, Mamdouh, has moved to America. His son, Mike, marries a Castilian-American, with whom he has a daughter, Nur. After Mike's death, Mamdouh wins custody of Nur but dies before he can return with her to Gaza. As a child, Nur experiences one travail after another, including an unloving "narcissist" for a mother, sexual abuse, and a string of foster homes. But she makes it through graduate school to become a therapist. Eventually, drawn by her Palestinian roots and her attraction to a Palestinian doctor, Nur ends up in Beit Daras, where she studies the case of a young boy who has fallen into a "coma-like" condition since an Israeli attack. The boy is Khaled, but Nur is at first unaware of their family ties. Nur's personal drama intertwines with not only her family's story, but with all of Gaza's struggle against the Israelis. In italicized sections, Abulhawa not only explains events in the narrative through Khaled's perceptions, but also gives what seems to be her own take on key moments in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. While a folk tale-like spirituality infuses the storytelling, readers' enjoyment will mostly depend on how they react to Abulhawa's violently anti-Israel and slightly milder anti-American perspectives. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.