Category: Literary Historical Fiction
Author: Alison Pick
Format: Hardcover, 378 pages
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Pub Date: August 29, 2017
Summary from Publisher:
A brilliant, astonishing and politically timely page-turner set in 1921 Palestine, from the author of the bestselling novel Far to Go, nominated for the Man Booker Prize.
This spare, beautifully written, shocking and timely novel whisks us back to 1921 Palestine, when a band of young Jewish pioneers, many escaping violence in their homelands, set out to realize a utopian dream: the founding of a kibbutz on a patch of land that will, twenty-five years later, become part of the State of Israel. Writing with tightly controlled intensity, Alison Pick takes us inside the minds of her vastly different characters–two young unmarried women, one plain and one beautiful, escaping peril in Russia and Europe; one older man, a charismatic group leader who is married with two children; and his wife, Hannah, who understands all too well the dark side of “equality”–to show us how idealism quickly tumbles into pragmatism, and how the utopian dream is punctured by messy human entanglements.
This is also the story of the land itself (present-day Israel and Palestine), revealing with compassion and terrible irony how the pioneers chose to ignore the subtle but undeniable fact that their valley was already populated, home to a people whose lives they did not entirely understand.
Writing with extraordinary power, Pick creates unforgettably human characters who, isolated in the enclosure of their hard-won utopian dream, are haunted by ghosts, compromised by unbearable secrets, and finally, despite flashes of love and hope, worn down by hardship, human frailty, and the pull of violent confrontation. The novel’s utterly shocking but satisfying conclusion will have readers flipping back to the first page to trace patterns and wrestle with the question of what is, or is not, inevitable and knowable in the human heart.
- From Goodreads
I was privileged to meet Alison Pick in person at a Penguin Random House event in Toronto, which showcased several upcoming books that retailers, librarians, and book bloggers could easily get excited about. At the end of the session, attendees were given a copy of Strangers with the Same Dream with an opportunity to hear its author speak and then personally sign the book. I had not yet read the novel—and in my ignorance, was not yet familiar with Alison Pick’s work.
But, I am now thrilled to say that has thankfully changed with my recent reading of her latest novel that serendipitously found its way into my book tote, and then later onto my night table, and eventually to my Completed Reads Bookshelf—and has become one of my favourite books of 2017.
Strangers with the Same Dream is written with an elegant narrative, a voice that renders its readers into the private world of communal living in the culture of a young, Jewish kibbutz, working the land and building a new Israel.
The intricacies and workings of this kibbutz is tenderly written with a reverent eye on its ancestors’ traditions and its new ideals, its hope for enlightenment with its connection to the land and its people, and its plans for settlement and its growing future.
And while ideals and motivated speeches urge the community to plod on in its newness and in its toil, its insecurities, and its doubts—the truths shown in frustrated plans in trying to build a new community from bare land and few resources, reveal a private and fragile innocence soiled by lust, pride, and self-centredness by a few that reverberate its consequences throughout the kibbutz, and ultimately affect the entirety of the young collective.
Within the fascinating details of what it means to be a young, Jewish person part of a collective that embarks on the challenging task of building a home and community in 1921, Israel—is the private yearning, tension, and struggle some individuals face in integrating themselves into the kibbutz they committed themselves to.
The novel is sensitively told through the perspective of key characters: Ida, whose plainness is overtaken by her reverent hope and obedience to the ideals of her ancestors and Jewish traditions; to David, the commune’s self-appointed and volatile leader whose misguided sense of control evolves into lapses of poor judgement, paranoia, and several mistakes, which lead to the book’s climatic resolve; to Hannah, whose role as wife, mother, and matriarch burden her with the loss of her personal motherhood and autonomy to the rules endorsed by the life of the commune.
Within these characters’ narratives are by no means, secondary characters, but rather other key characters who play a vital role in propelling the plot to the richness of the book’s emotional complexity and hidden deconstruction.
Strangers with the Same Dream is an extraordinarily intimate journey of what it means to conquer and reclaim not only a land of promised Jewish inheritance, but of the needs of the individual versus the needs of the communal; the tension between hope and its ever-renewing sense of idealism against the hardship of reality’s frugal cooperation, lack of resources, and sometimes disappointing and even devastating outcomes; and the ever-changing dynamic between power, provision, corruption, and equality.
I love this book. It’s written with intelligence and tenderness, and evokes a plot filled with restrained violence and passionate hope. Readers will quickly be immersed in the story as one might themselves become a member of this young, naive, yet hopeful kibbutz, and become privy to the internal struggles of its complex characters whose reign to self, battles with the higher calling to concede to the faith and livelihood of a collective and its ideals.
It’s a beautiful and necessary historical fiction, which addresses the fundamental and emotional turmoil—and deep satisfaction—the individual can face amidst a collective diligently hoping and working towards an unknown future.
Characters: 5 stars
Plot: 5 stars
Language/Narrative: 5 stars
Dialogue: 5 stars
Pacing: 5 stars
Cover Design: 5 stars
A special thanks to Penguin Random House Canada on behalf of Alfred A. Knopf for providing me with a copy of Strangers with the Same Dream by Alison Pick in exchange for an honest and timely review.
About the Author:
- From Goodreads