Sunday 24 November 2013

Book Review- The Almond Tree

Book- The Almond Tree
Author- Michelle Cohen Corasanti
Publisher- Fingerprint Publishers
ISBN- 978-81-7234-487-0
Genre- Fiction
Price- Rs 295
E-book- Available

The Readers' Cosmos this time gave me a chance to review "The Almond Tree" by Michelle Cohen Corasanti and and I am thankful that they did. It was a delightful read with words woven out of pure emotions.

There's also a website for the book and you can also read excerpts from

The first three pages of the book are full of praises and accolades for the book and its first time author. It is compared by many to the book The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini in terms of its appeal and the way it makes you familiar, even empathetic, with the culture of a far-off land. The book does have a universal appeal as the Ahmed of Palestine can easily be someone from Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Libya- any place where human sanity is crossing swords with fanaticism. Ahmed's struggle since childhood takes you through the conditions prevailing in the region and humanizes the numbers (of victims) that we almost daily see in news.

The cover design is well done with flowers set against a barbed wire fence and a handsome young man  representing Ahmed the character looking through the barbed fence with hope and determination. The back cover captures a barren landscape capturing the tough living conditions.

The language and the fonts are easy to the eye and are made for a smooth read. Hope of the characters' survival goes up and down like the pulse as the story progresses and the wordsmith has done such a complex task with use of a lucid words and common vocabulary. Kudos! Also, the familiarity with the culture makes one think that the author is from the Israel- Palestine region but reading in the introduction, you come to know that it was just based on what the author imbibed in one summer during a vacation; the respect for the way emotions are represented like one's own, increases manifold. It is this quality that sets apart good writers from great. Writing is nothing but understanding your characters and getting in their skin and this book does it well.

The story begins with a horrific incident that shakes the lives of a peaceful civilain family. This, and the way the family deals with it- sets the tone for the rest of the story. Ahmed, the protagonist witnesses death at a very early stage in his childhood and if not anything else, it makes him wiser. His intellect which exalts him from the rest of the characters specially in his academic pursuits, also enforces his identity as the protagonist. The questions that arise and the answers that he finds are what forms the rest of the story. Also, the story has emotional angles which tug at your heart, pinch you a little and make you smile and cry about how life plays us. Ahmed's marriage to Yasmine, the village belle, being one such piece. One cannot but feel sorry for her at times.

All in all, the book does a great job in character-detailing, story-telling and descriptions. I recommend the book to all who are looking for a good, thought-provoking read. Having certain bit of realism in it, the book might also interest non-fiction fans. I'd rate it 4 out of 5 stars!

Happy reading.

This book review is a part of The Readers Cosmos Book Review Program. To get free books log on to

Monday 4 November 2013

Here's how I spent my Diwali.

So, it was another Diwali at home. God, how much I love these times. Every Diwali with family is special because of the special feeling of togetherness with people who are your actual pillars of support is a great feeling. It also brings you closer to the place you belong to, mentally and emotionally. It was another day where we began with last moment panicking and trying to shop, clean, eat, talk- all at the same time. There was so much to eat and so much to do- this abundance that comes with Diwali is my favourite part. People splurge on sweets, crackers and clothes. I do believe in charity but an annual show of such emotions is more or less therapeutic to an otherwise middle-class, medium income-group family.

Also, it is a delight to watch all the family members come together and enjoy. My day began a late as I woke up at around 8-ish with Rangoli playing at the giant plasma TV set my Dad had just got. I think this tradition of watching Rangoli on Sundays will never leave my household. From the era of Black and White small CRTs to LCDs, this programme has been setting the whole day's pace and mood for us North-Indians since time immemorial. Then we drove to our Chhatarpur home where we were warmly welcomed by grandparents. It is always the fuzziest, warmest feeling to meet them after a while.

The afternoon was replete with shopping for diyas, sweets, Lakshmi Ganesh idols and other items of Pooja. The colourful Diwali markets, especially in small towns form an organic entity. The throbbing colours, young lasses shopping for Rangoli colours, women and men bargaining for random items, creative artworks, fireworks etc are a joy to watch and absorb. This very Indian-ness is missing in those newer entrants like - "Cadbury's Celebrations" gift packets with little or no personalization. Later in the noon, my Dad used some messaging site to send out Diwali greetings to all his contacts. I miss the good old greeting cards' tradition.

Half of the evening was spent helping in the cleaning and setting up of lights while the rest was spent napping! In the night, there was the quintessential Puja where my Dad, as always, recited the "story of Deepawali" (katha) and then later, we all sang the Aarti together.  After that, we set out to put diyas in each and every nook and cranny of the house and then there was the prasad distribution and touching of the feet of all elderlies. Then of course there were fireworks.

So, yep! That was my Diwali. :)

Hope yours was as simple and delightful. :)