“Full moons remind me of my father. Even though I can’t really remember him. Isn’t that silly?” she said, inhaling the night, eyes shut. “He told my sister that a full moon is a portal to God’s ears. Silly.”
Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa was an absolutely heartbreaking and thought provoking read that will stick with me for a very long time. Every word written is so deep that it embeds itself into your heart and mind.
The novel is a generational story focusing on the Abulheja family. It begins in 1948 during a time period in which most Palestinians know as Nakba. We are there introduced to husband and wife Yehya and Basima along with their two sons. The family live in a village in Palestine called Ein Hod.
It was during this time that thousands of Palestinian people were banished from their land and homes. This leads to many people facing hardships such as poverty, hunger, death, sexual assault, and constantly having to live in fear that tomorrow might be their last day on earth.
The Abulheja family are an example of those people who have had to flee their beloved country. Their olive farm is taken away from them and they are no longer able to Ein Hod once it is taken over by Zionists. They are forced to live in extreme conditions in a refugee camp and long to return to their home.
Much of the story is told in third person from the POV of Amal and the story ends with Amal too who ends up moving abroad to study. Amal is the daughter of Hasan and Dalia. She also has two brothers, Yusef and Ismael. As it is a generational story you see how things were before the Nakba and then how things quickly crumble for this family. Amal and her family face such horrible experiences, such as when her younger brother Ismael is stolen by an Israeli soldier and brought up as David. There is one point in the story where Yusef meets David now grown up but sadly this reunion is marred by violence.
It was also so sad to see Dalia, Amal’s mother change from this carefree individual become detached from the world and her family after certain events that occur.
“When was your thought her cold But In time I came to understand She was too tender for the world she’d been born into.”
Having faced all this heartache, Amal is luckily given the opportunity of a scholarship to study in America and that’s where things slowly begin to improve for her as life goes. She does incredibly well in her studies, makes friends, and forms relationships. However, there is always this feeling of a piece missing inside of her and a sense of not belonging.
“That’s how it was. Palestine would just rise up from my bones into the center of my new life, unannounced. In class, at a bar, strolling through the city. Without warning, the weeping willows of Rittenhouse Square would turn into Jenin’s fig trees reaching down to offer me their fruit.”
In terms of the writing style, it was reminiscent of Khalid Hosseini books such as A Thousand Splendid Suns. Every word hits your heart like the beat of a drum. The writing is just beautiful and there are so many qoutes that I’ve saved down because of how they made me feel.
You also can’t help but fall in love with the characters especially the free spirited Dalia who is Amal’s mother. Susan instantly makes you feel like you’re a shadow watching everything go by in the lives of the Abulheja family.
All in all, Mornings in Jenin was such a fantastic read that I thoroughly enjoyed. You feel Susan Abulhawa’s passion and love for her country and it really sticks with you. I was also able to learn a lot about the situation in Palestine by reading this book and have a better understanding of why and how the Nakba occured and the current situation in Gaza. It’s honestly so heartbreaking and some of the scenes are really brutal.
If you’re looking for a read to fully absorb you due to its story and characters then I definitely recommend this! Be sure to have your tissues ready though.