“Behind every dark moment, there is another hidden world. The trick is to hold out long enough to make it there.“
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.
Rating and Review
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway ages ago (in 2017). In a time when Goodreads giveaways were not limited to the US and Canada.
I participated in the giveaway because of the name of the book because I had not known Stephanie Saldana prior to that day (or even after that until I actually read this book now in 2020).
Now to Saldana’s life (as the book is a memoir).
The start was a bit slow because it takes time to get to know the people one is reading about and unlike fiction, not everything in one person’s life can be attractive or interesting to another human being.
But, the story picked up real fast. And past chapter 2, I was completely immersed in the story of Saldana’s life. So much so, that I felt present in all the events of her life she has talked about in her book.
It all started with two people meeting each other in a monastery – one of them a novice monk – and falling in love.
The narrative was engaging in a way that it kept on edge as I anticipated what will happen next while it left me with little historical tidbits here and there which makes me want to visit Jerusalem myself (this is something that is almost impossible with a Pakistani passport).
This is a story of an ordinary woman with many extraordinary ups and downs in her life and how everything seems to be larger than life itself. All the ensuing drama made me want to finish the book in one go but that was impossible for me as there was so much to imbibe from the story of Saldana’s life.
The story of her life flowed seamlessly form one incident to the other despite the fact that the story spans over years and some incidents do swing between Past and Present but it all makes sense in the ensuing chaos of the life of Saldana.
Talking about the historical and political aspect of Palestine and Israel, it was vaguely on the forefront of the world spectrum but it was never real life one’s life events are real. This book and the life Saldana made with her family in A Country Between brought that reality near and it made all the destruction and sadness and the beams of joy in among all those vivid for me in a way it had not been done before.
I am so glad that Stephanie Saldana wrote the book and that I got to read it.
Definitely a 4 star read.
I am going to leave you with a family photo Stephanie Saldana, her husband, Frederik (prior novice monk and now a priest), and her children.