A Country Between/ posted in: Book Review, Reading A Country Between: Making a Home Where Both Sides of Jerusalem Collide by Stephanie Saldana
on February 7, 2017
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
When American writer Stephanie Saldana finds herself in an empty house at the beginning of Nablus Road, the dividing line between East and West Jerusalem, she is a new wife trying to navigate a fragile terrain, both within her marriage and throughout the country in which she has chosen to live.
Pregnant with her first child, Stephanie struggles to protect her family, their faith, and herself from the cracks of Middle Eastern conflict that threaten to shatter the world around her. But as her due date approaches, she must reconcile herself with her choice to bring a child into a dangerous world. Determined to piece together life from the brokenness, she sets out to uncover small instances of beauty to balance the delicate coexistence between love, motherhood, and a country so often at war.
In an urban valley in Jerusalem, A Country Between captures the fragile ecosystem of the Middle East and the difficult first years of motherhood in the midst of a conflict-torn city. What unfolds is a celebration of faith, language, family, and love that fills the space between what was shattered, leaving us whole once more.
This memoir is the story of an American woman who was considering becoming a nun in a Syrian monastery. She met a French novice monk there. Eventually, they left and married.
Through a series of unplanned events, they found themselves setting up their first household in Jerusalem. It was near the dividing line between Palestinian and Jewish areas near the Damascus Gate.
“The sun rose in the east speaking Arabic and set in the west speaking Hebrew, and we tried to find our way in between.”
This is the story of trying to make a marriage while dealing with your husband’s deep grief about leaving the monastery. It is worrying about what might happen every time you leave the house.
“…a great many of the dramas that happen in the Middle East begin with the simple intention of leaving the house to buy vegetables.”
This is a very lyrical memoir of their lives in this house. I think that it started too slowly. There was too much information about her childhood. It slowed down the pace of the book. Now I know that there was a first memoir about meeting her husband and the decision to leave the monastery. This was also covered here for those of us who didn’t read the first book.
There is some discussion of the larger political issues that affected their day to day lives but mostly she discusses the affect of policy on her street. She discusses roadblocks and violence. She talks about taking her kids to play in touristy areas. Her neighborhood is a microcosm of all the religions that call Jerusalem home.
It can also be funny.
“When the Franciscans came into view in their brown cassocks, Joseph’s face became overcome with wonder. He ran to them and quietly bowed his head. Then he whispered, in solemn greeting, “Heigh-ho. Heigh-ho.””
Ultimately I would have liked more politics to understand what was happening but that isn’t the point of this book. Read this one if you like beautifully written slice of life stories.
“If I can ask you to remember only one thing, then let it be this: keep watch. You have not been born into an easy world. But every now and then, in the midst of our daily lives, a miracle strikes.”
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Books Set in the Middle East