Friday, 4 March 2011

Before We Say Goodbye by Gabriella Ambrosio

Translated By: Alastair McEwen
Publisher: Walker Books
Format: Paperback
Published: English Edition: 2010
Original Edition (Prima di Lasciarsi): 2004
Number of Pages: 146
Book: Bought
Genre: True to Life Fiction
Recommended Age: 12+
Contains: Strong emotions, suicide bombers, adult themes
No sexual, drug or drinking references


On a spring morning like any other, Dima trudges to school.  Her thoughts drift to her forthcoming marriage to her cousin Faris; but she cannot allow to her heart to grow warm.
Across the city, Myriam skips school to sit up on the hill and grieve for her best friend, Michael.  They had dreamt of travelling to America together; can she still live those dreams without him?
As the hours tick on, Myriam begins to see a future, while Dima does not.  For Dima has already accepted her destiny: today she will die.


 
Review:
Starting at 7am, 29th March 2002, Before We Say Goodbye tells the story hour by hour, until, seven hours later, everything is changed...
I’m honestly not sure where to start this review.  Before I Say Goodbye was absolutely amazing – but it was more than that.  It really made me think, made me feel, and made me understand everything that has been going on between the Israelis and the Palestinians.  I felt close to tears as I got nearer the end: it all seemed so real.
And, you see, that’s the thing: Before I Say Goodbye is based on the true story of the suicide bombing of a supermarket in 2002.  A story of two girls – one a Palestinian, one an Israeli Jewess – who look so similar that they’re ironically mistaken for sisters.  The two girls couldn’t be more different, but they both have one thing in common: “lost eyes”...
What makes this book even more incredible is the fact that it doesn’t judge.  Gabriella Ambrosio somehow manages the impossible, remaining completely unbiased all the way through.  She states in the Author’s Note: Everyone warned me: if you write this story you’ll have to take sides, express a point of view.  But a point of view is not a good point of view if it only shows one side of the story.”  And I agree.  Her book is a work of genius; it’s told from everyone’s point of view, and yet from no-one’s, taking us through everyone’s world, and yet judging none of them.  How she managed to do this is completely beyond me: all I know is that I loved it.
The only fault was the fact that to begin with, it was quite hard to keep track of all the characters.  In every hour, there are little sections told from various characters points of view: Myriam’s, Dima’s, a guard’s, the girls’ fathers’, and so on.  The saving grace for me was a little list of characters at the beginning of the book, but before long I didn’t have to go check who was who.  Also it jumped from one to the other, just as I felt I was beginning to really get to know one character.  But – even if it could be a little tricky – that jumping was what kept me hooked.  It was what made me stay up until one, completely captivated by the two girls, their lives and their thoughts.  The pace was lightening-fast – long chapters, sentences or a longer book just would’ve ruined the effect, in my opinion.
I’ll be the first to tell you that this isn’t an easy book, and I almost smiled when I got to the end and saw that Ambrosio had written: “It was a challenge to write; it will be a challenge to read.”  What made it harder was that the story actually happened, something I honestly didn’t find out until I finished the book and stumbled onto the Author’s Note. 
But, despite all of that, this was one of the best books I’ve read.  It helped me to understand what people living in Jerusalem are going through, and how far some of them are willing to go so they can be heard.  As I finished, I was fighting back tears – and losing – stunned by everything I’d learnt and felt.  It isn’t an easy book, or a particularly happy one, but it really makes you think about and appreciate what you have.  These two girls lived in a place where fear was pretty much always there, as a minor character points out right before the end.  “We have become a violent people, that’s true.  But when they’ve been pointing a gun at your chest since you were small and you’ve been subjected to abuse since you were born, what do they expect you to become, if not violent?”  (And, yes, I cried at that, and about a billion other little quotes or actions throughout the book.)
The two girls, Dima and Myriam, just felt so real to me, and I understood what they were feeling.  I’m not going to begin to act like I get what it’s like, growing up in a country where you’re always scared, but I knew what these girls were thinking. 
So, no, not a happy book.
But an amazing one, and one that will stay with me for a long time.  I can’t tell you how it will make you think, but it will make you think, I promise that.  My head’s still spinning. 
Honestly, I can’t recommend it enough.

Star Rating:
4½ Out of 5



Read this book if you liked:
Before I Die by Jenny Downham
Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Others Endorsed by the Amnesty International UK:
Sold by Patricia McCormick
Chalkline by Jane Mitchell


Challenge/s It's Taking Part In:

4 comments:

Jenny said...

Wow, this one sounds really powerful and intense. I think I would have to be in the right mood for this one since it's not exactly uplifting, but I love the ones that stay with me and I remember clearly even after it's been months since I read them:)

Brian Adams said...

Hey. I read the book and couldn't agree more.

Brian Adams said...

Hey. I read the book and couldn't agree more.

Brian Adams said...

Hey. I read the book and couldn't agree more.