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The End of Spring

ISBN: 978-1-56656-681-0

By: Sahar Khalifeh

Translated by Paula Hayd
Review by: Aleathia Drehmer

January 2009

I began this book as a fairly blank canvas. This is to say that my knowledge of Palestine was very little. I knew it would be about Palestine and Israel, and from that I inferred there would be war and religion and strife, but what I did not expect was to fall in rapture with the lives of two young men and the people around them. Sahar Khalifeh won the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature with this book and has been touted as a veritable Virginia Woolf of Palestine. I think these titles are not too far off the mark.

The End of Spring begins detailing the lives of two brothers who are of different mothers, one orphaned and one not. Ahmad is a young boy of about fourteen who is awkward and shy in his body. He stutters and cannot look people in the eye, but he is an artist and sensitive to how the world breathes around him. His brother Majid is much older and in college. He is handsome and a well-liked singer. The first third of the book weaves their lives together before the insurgence on Palestine when life was still marginally good.

Ahmad gets caught in a Jewish settlement camp near his home and is taken to prison and tortured, and shortly thereafter, his brother Majid joins up with the cause fighting for Arafat. This book shows the many sides of war that we may never experience. It explores a man’s will to survive, the challenges of his faith in God, the tension placed on family, the persistent desecration of love, and how one must question his reality on a daily basis. Khalifeh is masterful in bringing Palestine alive including the lush vegetation down to the desperation of watching people die. I could see and smell and taste Palestine.

The women of this book were some of the strongest that I have read in a long time. Beautiful women alive with struggle and faith and hardship, yet still their hearts bend in the face of love and family. They are what keep the men upright. They are the hope of a new Palestine. They are the glue that keeps the family together in times when all is torn asunder. They are the mothers, wives, sisters and daughters of the revolution.

This book is both hard to read from the sense of being inside the struggle, but it also gives one the idea that we should be thankful for the lives we lead. It was educational and moving and heartbreaking at the same time.

I recommend this book highly.


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