Midweek Mini Reviews #2

Native: Dispatches from an Israeli-Palestinian Life by Sayed Kashua

nativeAs, Native: Dispatches from an Israeli-Palestinian Life was my introduction to the writings of Sayed Kashua I was struck by how dry, dark, and self-deprecating the humour was at times. Just by reading the columns, I felt as if I got to look beneath the surface at what life is truly like in Israel particularly if you’re an Arab. Of course it was fun being reminded of some of the quirks of living in Israel as I too can recall having a shower in my apartment that a n incredibly strong water pressure, which was amazing when you’re living in the middle of a desert town. Additionally, I also enjoyed reading about Kashua experiences going through book festivals and travelling as it appealed to the book nerd in me. All in all, this was a somewhat dark, satirical, albeit a heartwarming collection of stories about the Israeli-Palestinian Life.

But You Did Not Come Back by Marceline Loridan-Ivens, Judith Perrignon


While short in length, But You Did Not Come Back manages to summarize the important details of Marceline’s life, including the horrors of the concentration camp and her struggle to adapt to the world once she returns “home”. The events she relates back in the book are especially horrifying if you let it sit in your head for a while until you realize the book is not a work of fiction but rather a memoir of the authour’s life experiences. People were actually treated in the concentration camps in the despicable manner that Marceline describes and it’s unfortunate that even today some people still hold the same beliefs as the tormentors back at the concentration camps.

Written as a letter to her deceased father, But You Did Not Come Back also comes across as a heartbreaking story of true survival and resilience. Like the author, I too am slightly pessimistic about our world today given all that’s happened in the world and politics in 2016 and the aftermath of such events. And it’s why books like this one are so important in that they remind us to not forget that what happened in the past can happen again if we are not careful.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper

Emma Hooper
Advance Reader Copy, 305 pages
Publication date:
January 13th 2015
Penguin Canada
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

At the beginning pages of Emma Hooper’s debut novel, Etta and Otto and Russell and James we learned that Etta, an 82 year old woman and set off on a journey to the sea, leaving only a brief note and a bunch of recipe cards for her husband, Otto. What follows is not only a story of one woman’s pilgrimage across Canada from Saskatchewan to Halifax, but also a story of the past of Etta, Otto and their friend, Russell in addition to a story of the simple lives of people in rural Canada.

There were several things that I liked regarding this book, the first being the prose which was deceptively simple yet utterly beautiful. I love reading on the day to day lives of the people who were left behind during the war and those who assisted with the war on top of the indirect effects the war had on people and even schools back home. I also enjoyed the friendship between Otto and Russell especially when they were young and it was unfortunate that we do not witness greater amounts of interaction between the two in the present. Finally I also liked the employment of the “talking” coyote, James as it provides greater insight into Etta’s character and state of mind in addition to her well-being.

That being understood, there were numerous times throughout the book, particularly near the conclusion where I found it difficult to follow the story. To be more specific I found the timelines slightly confusing to the point that I needed to reread several sections just to figure out what had just happened. Afterwards, I was left wondering this writing style was intentionally done to illustrate the deteriorating mind. Still it you are willing to dig deep, you will find that Etta and Otto and Russell and James is a beautiful novel concerning love, loss and how the past has a way of never completely disappearing. Also for those who loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, I think you will definitely appreciate Etta and Otto and Russell and James especially the moment where Etta’s simple journey suddenly gains a following due to the media’s interest. Overall Etta and Otto and Russell and James is a book that is worth picking up if you do not mind a story that is slower in pacing and is driven more by the characters and their actions.

If you like this book, you’ll love: Waiting for the Man by Arjun Basu

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.