Friday, November 13, 2020


Author:  Colum McCann
Publication Information:  Random House. 2020. 480 pages.
ISBN:  1400069602 / 978-1400069606

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The hills of Jerusalem are a bath of fog."

Favorite Quote:  "It will not be over until we talk."

The word "apeirogon" itself is a mathematical concept. The etymology of the word is from the Greek words apeiros meaning infinite or boundless and gonia meaning angle. Mathematically, an apeirogon is a two-dimensional closed shape (a polygon) with a countable infinite number of sides. I am not entire sure what that means mathematically, but it gets the point across. This book is about a history and a dialogue with countless different perspectives that have to be reconciled and joined to form a whole.

This idea is captured in the structure of the book itself. The story is told in 1,000 chapters, each ranging from a few words to a few pages long. The sections turn from topic to topic, coming at the story from different angles. Each one ties into the cohesive whole.

This story is fiction but with lifetimes of history encapsulated in it. Having now read it, I want to go back and page by page look up the topics, the people and the history to try and better understand it. Countless books and articles have been written and continue to be written on this history. This fictionalized book puts them in the context of a story. The relationship between the history and the fictionalization is explained in the author's note in the book.

What is the story, you might ask? This is a story of two fathers, both of whom lost their young daughter to violence - one to a stray bullet and one to a bombing. Both girls were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Both girls were being raised in a time and place where violence unfortunately is common place. These two men, who some might say come from opposite ends of a political spectrum, have found commonality and friendship in their losses and their sorrow.

This is a story of the Palestinian and Israeli conflict and of two men - Rami Elhanan nor Bassam Aramin. Rami Elhanan - father of Smadar - is Israeli. Bassam Aramin - father of Abir - is Palestinian. A Palestinian suicide bomber was responsible for the death of thirteen-year-old Smadar Elhanan. A rubber bullet fired by an Israeli soldier killed ten-year-old Abir Aramin. United in their sorrow, the men call each other friend and brother.

They are members of the Parents Circle Families Forum. The membership of the joint Israeli-Palestinian organization is over 600 families who have lost an immediate family member to this conflict. The central tenet of the organization is that reconciliation and dialogue are the inherent foundation on which sustainable peace may one day be built.

What can I possibly say about this book other than read it.

I was educated as I looked up the myriad of things the story captures - the birds, the bullets, the Molotov Cocktail, the Parents Circle, the universal symbol of peace, and countless other details built into the story.

I was heartbroken, and I cried. As a human and as a parent, the loss of these two men is immeasurable and unending. In fact, in interviews, both men have said that they participated in the writing and that this book will keep the memory of their daughters alive. However, they are unable to read the book in entirety for it is a mirror of the searing grief they live with. The fact that these two families are but two examples of losses that extend so far is even more devastating.

I was given hope. Out of the loss of these men came not hate but friendship and dialogue. Perhaps, that light in the middle of this darkness will shine bright.

I was changed. This is a book and a story I will carry with me for a long time to come. Behind every headline I now read will be a vision of Abir and Smadar. Their deaths are the stark reality of this conflict.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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