Quick OverviewIt is seven a.m. on a spring morning in Jerusalem. Eighteen-year-old Dima trudges through the mud to college and reflects on many things, including her forthcoming marriage to her cousin Faris. Seventeen-year-old Myriam skips school to sit on the tree-lined hill overlooking the city and think about her friend Michael, whose death she still mourns. And Dima’s and Myriam’s families – one Palestinian, one Israeli – go about their ordinary, separate lives; for today is like every other day. Yet in seven hours’ time, everything will have changed. For ever.
Suitable for adults and ages 14+
DetailsIt is 7am on a spring morning in Jerusalem. Eighteen-year-old Dima trudges through the mud to college and reflects on many things, including her forthcoming marriage to her cousin Faris.
Seventeen-year-old Myriam skips school to sit on the tree-lined hill overlooking the city and think about her friend Michael, whose death she still mourns. And Dimas and Myriam's families - one Palestinian, one Israeli - go about their ordinary, separate lives; for today is like every other day. Yet in seven hours' time, everything will have changed. Forever.
Before We Say Goodbye tells the story of a Jerusalem suicide bombing from the perspective of two teenage girls: one is the bomber, the other her victim. Inspired by a true story, this extraordinary novel tells of the human impact when societies are riddled with violence and hatred. Its dramatically visual and pacy narrative exposes the corrosive damage inflicted on hearts and minds and the inevitable destruction of young lives. It achieves a rare feat in literature about the Middle East: it is both even-handed and non-judgmental, enabling readers to empathise with both the bomber and the victim.
The author, Gabriella Ambrosio, is an Italian journalist, academic and businesswoman.
Before We Say Goodbye won an Italian first novel award at the Festival du Premier Romance in Chambery, France and is now also available in both Arabic and Hebrew. It is endorsed by Amnesty International UK as contributing to the understanding of human rights and the values that underpin them.
Suitable for adults and ages 14+
'Not a word is wasted; the narrative is clear, concise and striking. I dont claim to know much about translating but whatever the original italian was like, translator Alastair McEwan has done a wonderful job. I felt involved in the story. What I particularly like about this book is that it doesnt take sides. There is no bias, no judgement; just a beautifully written account of one of the saddest and oldest conflicts in the world. Its an important subject, beautifully executed ina way that makes it accessible to everyone. Politics and history arent prevalent but human emotion is. What makes it all the more poignant is that is is based on a true story one of two girls who died in the same place and were mistaken for sisters. I highly recommend this book.'
The Book Whisperer, http://boofsbookshelf.com
It has been my experience that books endorsed by Amnesty International are excellent because of the thoughtful manner in which problems are presented and the high quality of the writing. Sold by Patricia McCormick is about child sexual slavery and Chalkine by Jane Mitchell is about the horror of child soldiers.
However, this latest book is even more engrossing and thought provoking.
There are times when one more suicide bomber or martyr dies and we turn away from the television screen or newspaper, sickened and baffled by the kind of world that includes young people dying and killing others for a cause which we find difficult to understand because of its complexities and paradoxes. Gabriella Ambrosio wrote in her Authors Note: Good books merely help us to ask questions; more and more questions.
She has certainly fulfilled her definition of a good book. Using the device of setting out the hours and the events of the last day in the lives of two girls, one Palestinian and one American-Israeli, she engrosses us from the beginning. The stories of Dima and Myriam are told: both of them have lost people they love to the violence in Jerusalem and both of them have come to a moment in their lives when they have to make important decisions. As they inexorably move towards each other, we are struck by how much they have in common and that, perhaps in a sane world, they would be good friends. Just as important is the depiction of the people that surround the two girls; they are just as contradictory and complex as Dima and Myriam. Myriams brother, Nathan, has just started his compulsory military service and witnessed the blowing up of his friends on their first day of duty. That trauma has changed his viewpoint completely. Dimas father, Said, works with both Israelis and Palestinians but he is coming to realise that the connections between the two groups are becoming more and more tenuous.
What is so striking about Ambrosios writing is that she presents both sides of the situation and when we do finish the novel, there are indeed many questions clamouring in our minds. Ambrosio wrote the book in reaction to a 2002 attack and dedicates the novel to the two girls who died in it. I think another reason the book is so powerful is that it is beautifully written (and translated). This is not a clumsy issues book but a work of terrible beauty. Somehow it is fitting that Yeats wrote that phrase about a different but equally horrific conflict in Ireland.
If I were Empress of the World for a day, I would insist that everyone read Before We Say Goodbye. Elevation to such a position seems unlikely but I would strongly suggest anyone HSC 2011 Advanced English student read it as a Related Text for Conflicting Perspectives. Then they should pass it on to all their family and friends.
Suzanne O'Connor, English Department, St Vincent's College, Potts Point, Australia.
- Additional Info
Code BBYE Supplier Walker Books Values and causes Amnesty Branded
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