Book Bag: ‘The Other End of the Sea’ by Alison Glick; ‘Hector Fox and the Raven’s Revenge’ by Astrid Sheckels

Staff Writer
Published: 7/8/2022 12:58:04 PM
Modified: 7/8/2022 12:55:28 PM

The Other End of the Sea

By Alison Glick; Interlink Books


There’s a line roughly a third of a way through Alison Glick’s novel “The Other End of the Sea” that encapsulates the book’s theme — or the most important part of it — pretty well: “I began to realize that my life with Zayn would be life without Zayn.”

Glick, a Jewish American woman who in her 20s lived in Israel and Syria for several years, has based her novel on some of her experiences. The story’s first-person narrator, Becky Klein, comes to Israel in the 1980s and for a time lives on a kibbutz before returning to the country a few years later as a teacher.

Becky soon begins to develop ties to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, especially an activist named Zayn, who previously spent 15 years in Israeli jails for his opposition to the government. He has an undeniable if unconventional charm, Becky thinks, but she also notices “the hint of sadness folded into the lines that edged his eyes.”

It’s the beginning of a romance between the two, one that will culminate in a marriage that will in turn be defined by periods of separation and strife. Zayn’s activism will send him into hiding in Gaza, then back to prison for several months, and finally into exile in Egypt, Tunisia, and then Syria.

“What would I do here without Zayn?” Becky asks at one point. “I came to this land without knowing him, but he had become an anchor, an interlocutor, a translator of all things Gazan and more. Could I be here without him?”

“The Other End of the Sea,” published by Interlink Books of Northampton, also becomes a larger study of the Palestinian experience of exile and displacement — as well as what it’s like to live under the guns of the Israeli military.

In one early scene during the First Intifada, the series of sustained Palestinian protests against Israel in the late 1980s, Becky and a few American friends are walking down a quiet street in Ramallah, in the West Bank, when they’re stopped by Israeli soldiers. When they’re found to have literature and other material sympathetic to the Palestinians, they’re arrested and their passports are taken.

One of Becky’s friends, John, demands that they be allowed to contact the American consulate and says “they have rights” as U.S. citizens. “This isn’t a democracy!” the commanding officer shouts in response.

Israeli soldiers also barge into Becky’s apartment looking for Zayn, and on another occasion Zayn comes home limping after being struck with an Israeli rifle butt, apparently because he didn’t have his identity card with him.

“I had documented more injuries than I could possibly recall as a human rights worker,” Becky relates. “But seeing the physical evidence of this violence on the body of someone I loved pushed the act of seeing into the realm of disbelief.”

The Palestinian-Israeli struggle and the cultural divide between Becky and Zayn create further hardship for the couple, especially after they have a daughter, Amira, and Becky decides to return to the U.S. with her.

Becky tries to bring Zayn to America as well, an effort that fails when U.S. authorities classify his activism as terrorism, but which Becky and Zayn say was simply his justified resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.

In addition to her past teaching, Glick, who lives in Philadelphia, has been a human rights researcher and freelance writer, working for publications including Washington Report on Middle East Affairs and Arab Studies Quarterly. In an interview earlier this year, she described how she began her book as a memoir but was persuaded by Interlink to turn it into a novel.

Doing so allows Glick to leaven a tense and often sad story with some humor and vivid descriptions of the sharp contrasts in densely populated Gaza, like a dusty construction site that sits next to a garden, one “verdant and intricate with bushes of fragrant basil, plain earthy potatoes, and showy trees of lemon and almond.”

Then there’s the profile of her wedding day, in all its lack of convention: “My husband-to-be, 35 years old and on the lam from the Israeli military, was to be married to me, a Jewish woman from the Midwest, in Gaza, on a strike day, in the middle of the intifada, by a sheikh who was arriving in an ambulance.”

“This is a love story with more than one twist,” The Jordan Times says of the novel, adding that Glick’s “thoughtful and sometimes ironic tone prods one to ponder the themes she raises … from the struggle for justice to the perils and promise of connecting the personal and the political.”


Hector Fox and the Raven’s Revenge

Text and illustrations by Astrid Sheckels; Islandport Press


Greenfield artist and children’s book author Astrid Sheckels brings a unique touch to her stories, using rich watercolor paintings of anthropomorphic animals — a style she calls “a mix of classic realism and whimsy” — who have a range of adventures in their woodland home. Think a more detailed version of E. H. Shepard’s illustrations for the original Winnie the Pooh stories and you’d not be far off.

In her newest book, “Hector Fox and the Raven’s Revenge,” Sheckels has continued a series of stories aimed at readers ages 3 to 7 that are centered on Hector Fox and his friends — a marten, a chipmunk, a rabbit and a skunk — and Hector’s cozy home in a hollow tree.

In the first book, “Hector Fox and the Giant Quest,” the woodland pals journeyed to a mysterious marsh to check out rumors of a giant living there. In Sheckel’s new story, Hector & Co. receive a letter from three mice who live in a stone tower in another part of the forest. The news sounds ominous: The mice say they fear the “Raven’s Revenge,” and the letter includes a black feather.

“We must go investigate,” says Lucy Skunk, and so the five friends hike through the woods to the Stone Tower, where they see a disturbing number of dark birds flying around the top of the structure. Inside, the mice tell their visitors that years ago, their great-grandfather denied an old raven entry to the tower during a storm, and the bird warned he would return and “take his revenge.”

Now, not only are ravens circling the tower, but Hector, his friends, and the three mice find a second black feather inside the building. Another warning? They also hear banging and rustling toward the top of the tower. Are the ravens already inside? And if they are, what happens next?

“With a classic fairy-tale feel, this is a suspenseful, well-paced picture book of friendship, bravery, and acceptance,” Booklist writes about Skeckel’s new story.

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