The old neighborhood block in Beirut was home to an ever- changing population as the fighting intensified and lessened. But three people were almost always there.The older Polish woman, Margo, refugee from her past, her country and family after another war, spinning her tales of freedom fighters, itinerant peoples, despair and courage. And Lebanese born and bred Layla, only recently returned from Australia after fleeing the earlier civil war to teach her students again. Palestinian Kamal; refugee, writer and lecturer, whose cherished faith in a free, tolerant, democratic Lebanon has been shattered by difficulties of living there now. Among their friends are older politicians, university friends often visiting from lucrative posts in Europe or the USA, and local political activists. The retaliation raids by Israel and the political aftermath further shatter their community: some flee to the mountains, many leave the country. Some like Layla try to identify more deeply what it is that holds her to this place, why she cannot leave. Nada Awar Jarrar has written a powerful and moving novel, full of character and insight, of joy and tears, which makes us understand how people can stand such daily fear of violence and can continue to have faith in the country of their heart.
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