Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Vision of Angels by Timothy Jay Smith

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Owl Canyon Press (July, 2013)
Pages: 300

Timothy Smith has written a gripping tale of love and hate that is set in the Middle East. A terrorist threat for Easter Sunday in Jerusalem sets off a chain of events that weave together the lives of an American journalist, an Israeli war hero, a Palestinian farmer, and an Arab-Christian grocer.

Major Jakov Levy closes the boarder between Israel and the Gaza Strip when he is alerted to a suicide bomb plot. With the closing, Amin Mousa is unable to get his produce to market, so he dumps truckloads of tomatoes in a refugee camp. David Kessler, an American journalist, uses his press identification badge to cross the boarder and drive into Gaza for Amin's story.

Hamas militants plot to hide a bomb in David's car and retrieve it when he returns to Jerusalem, but he's unexpectedly detoured on the way. Meanwhile, a Hamas cell member confesses to the plot, and the race is on to find David and retrieve the bomb before the terrorists can.

The author has penned an ambitious and gripping story from several points of view while keeping the writing unbiased and compassionate. It shows the volatile grudge match that characterizes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from all sides and perspectives. Unbiased does not mean the story is flat, far from it. This is an emotional rollercoaster from first page to last.

This story is told from many different characters’ points of view, which its strength, and also it’s downfall. The narrative switches points of view every few pages (sometimes twice per page) over a wide array of characters. It is interesting to see the story from all sides, yet, I often found it confusing trying to keep track of so many players, and because so little time was spent on each one, none of them were able to reach the depth that I had hoped for. These characters were far from one dimensional, but I expected more from the four protagonists.

This is not an easy story to read, both from an emotional standpoint and a technical one. The author has a lean and edgy prose style that I enjoyed, yet I found it jarring each time he switched from past to present tense and back, which was often. I also found it jarring to switch points of view so often. This is a modern style of writing that an old dog like me has yet to appreciate.

The author ends the story on a symbol of hope for the future, yet I failed to feel that hope. What I was left with was the tragedy and futility caused by the constant collateral damage in cultures where hate is allowed to flourish.

I do recommend this read. It is an enthralling tale, which shines a light on the issues of that precarious region, told by an author who had lived there and experienced it first hand.

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