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5.0 out of 5 stars Checkpoint - Lisa Saffron, 15 May 2008
This review is from: Checkpoint (Paperback)
CHECKPOINT by Lisa Saffron : Review.

CHECKPOINT, the impressive and highly original first novel by Lisa Saffron, cannot be called an easy read. The subject matter is often much too stark, too painful for comfort.

Through the distinct voices of its three central characters, it offers an uncompromising exploration of the tragic situation in Israel/Palestine.

Yigal, an Israeli soldier, is killed in a bomb attack. But that is only the beginning of his story. Once dead, he finds himself watching clouds at the Other World Checkpoint, bound forever in an extraordinary and touching
alliance with Aisha, the fiery and passionate Palestinian suicide bomber who brought about his death.Ruth, Yigal's mother, conventional Israeli housewife, driven half mad with grief, mourns him, and, in the process, embarks on an extraordinary inner journey, which will take her from unquestioning acceptance, to an emotional and shocking encounter with Leila, mother of the suicide bomber, in a Palestinian refugee camp.

Vivi, Ruth's friend, is an ardent and proactive advocate of the Palestinian cause, and, as such, poses a threat to David, Ruth's husband, whose unquestioning support of Israel leads him to behave with horrific and shocking violence to those who oppose him or challenge his viewpoint.

Also involved is Orli, Ruth's daughter, who, in the course of the story, comes alive to what is happening in her country, and becomes determined to take an active role in bringing about a more peaceful situation.

The story spans the years from 2002 to 2006.Through the use of memory, surreal sequences and dreams, as well as often shocking factual material, which reads very much like eye witness accounts, we piece together the events of these years in the lives of the characters and in the life of the country.

The author, who is an active member of a Progressive synagogue, has travelled to Israel several times in recent years. The inspiration for the book was her visit to the Middle East with the Compassionate Listening
Project.

Her viewpoint, though many may disagree with it, is, I feel, both informed and tolerant. She has an excellent grasp both of her subject matter, and of the wider implications of the conflict.

The credo of the book is "peace with justice', forgiveness and understanding. A realisation that, only by working together for peace can the suffering ever end. The moving force behind this initiative are the
bereaved mothers, both Israeli and Palestinian. In the words of Leila, mother of Aisha:

"But we mothers suffer. We cannot take any more of this needless suffering."

The suffering is seen to exist on both sides. When an Israeli mother loses her beloved son. When a Palestinian mother has to come to terms with the fact that her daughter has martyred herself .When an Israeli mother must accept that her gentle son killed a child. When personal relationships buckle under the strain of the conflict. When houses and lives are destroyed.

It is a very brave and an important book, and an uncompromising one. It is guaranteed to make you think. It may well make you cry. It might even change your mind.

Sheila Yeger: March 2008
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