This is one of my favourite books that I’ve read this year. Have I mentioned how much I love reading historical fiction?
The Blue Between Sky and Water is about four generations of powerful Palestinian women in Gaza. The women are strong, resilient, passionate, and they put their family first and they aren’t afraid to make sacrifices to protect their own.
A Palestinian family is violently pushed from their ancient farming village of Beit Daras and they try to reconstitute themselves in a refugee camp in Gaza. The men there, those who have escaped prison or the battlefields, worry over making ends meet, they tend their tattered pride, and they join the resistance. The women are left to be breadwinners and protectors. Nazmiyeh is the matriarch and very much the main character in the novel. She is the center of a household of sisters, daughters, granddaughters, whose lives threaten to spin out of control with every personal crisis, military attack, or political landmine.
Her brother’s granddaughter Nur is stuck in America; her own daughter’s son, traumatized in an Israeli assault, slips into another kind of exile; her daughter has cancer and no access to medicine. Their neighbour, the Beekeeper’s wife, will extract the marijuana resin to shrink her tumor, but it is also Nazmiyeh’s large heart and zest for life that heals, that will even call Nur back from the broken promise of America and set her on a new path. All Nazmiyeh’s loved ones will return to her, and ultimately journey further, to that place between the sky and water where all is as it once was, and where all will meet again.
The Blue Between Sky and Water is a fantastic, divine novel about survival, showcasing powerful women who manage to enlarge and enliven the everyday. When I say ‘powerful women’, I don’t mean in status. They are not wealthy or important, but they are struggling. They have tragedy in their lives and they are coping. But the women rise above all that to tackle their problems and their issues and they come together to live their lives and take things one step at a time. They are bold and confident and they stand up for themselves. They are the stars of this novel and they are inspiring to the reader.
This is a timeless novel, with lyrical prose and insight into the historical woes and turmoil in Gaza. The novel jumps between generations and families and characters, but all of the sections come together to deliver a satisfying conclusion that resembles the importance of family and the importance of being there for one another.
I loved the characters in this novel, but I also loved the magic realism that the author wove into the story. We received short bits of it every so often and it was refreshing and uplifting and it helped propel the story forward. This book illustrated a culture that I know very little about, and it presented it in a sensitive and honest setting. A true setting, with events that have really happened in the world and are hard to imagine.
Above all else, this book shows us characters who have lost everything, who are suffering and have nothing, but are able to rebuild and begin again, find love and cherish everything that they’ve gained. It’s a beautiful book and I can’t recommend it enough.