Tuesday, February 13, 2018

4/4 * review of "Andalusian in Jerusalem"

Review by Maggie G -- Andalusian in Jerusalem

Post by Maggie G » 04 Feb 2018, 21:49

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4 out of 4 stars

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Andalusian in Jerusalem, by Mois Benarroch and translated by Enriqueta Carrington, is a strange, destabilizing novel about a writer grappling with identity and memory.

The book opens with Guillermo, the narrator, recounting childhood memories, including one wherein he tells his classmates that he’s Jewish, although (to his knowledge) he isn’t.

The book then transitions to present day, where Guillermo is in Jerusalem for a writers’ festival. While walking through the streets of Jerusalem, Guillermo wanders into a woman’s home, and she tells him she’s his mother, that his name is actually David (which is Guillermo’s secret name for himself) and that he died in the Lebanon War. Guillermo suddenly leaves, telling the woman he will return the next day.

Guillermo then meets with his writer friends, Charly and Nora, and Charly tells a story that sounds a lot like Guillermo’s recent strange encounter with the woman. Upon leaving Charly and Nora, Guillermo is kidnapped by several men who show him a movie about water memory (which is explained later as a phenomenon whereby water remembers events, and thanks to this memory, one might even reproduce the underlying events). The kidnappers tell him the movie proves that they’re the owners of Jerusalem, and ask him to write about it. Guillermo agrees to try, and they return him to his hotel.

The next morning, Charly gives Guillermo a manuscript of a novel he’s written, and Guillermo agrees to read it. Guillermo then tries unsuccessfully to find the home of the woman who claimed to be his mother.

Guillermo reads Charly’s manuscript, which is a fluid, meandering work about the Jews of Spain, their forced conversions, which led to uncertainty about Jewish identity, and their expulsion from the region. Upon completing the manuscript, Guillermo searches again for his “mother’s” home. The ensuing events bring the reader back to the underlying themes of memory and identity.

There are two things I especially liked about this book. The first is the sophisticated way the author dealt with the themes of memory and identity that appear throughout the book. Too frequently authors treat thematic elements with a heavy hand, and tell rather than show. In this case, a lot of things are left unsaid, and I think it takes a great deal of discipline on the part of the author to trust the reader to follow along.

The second aspect of the novel that I enjoyed was its matter-of-fact recounting of strange events. The plot summary makes the book sound like science fiction, because there are definitely elements of the supernatural, but the characters wave off these event, attributing them to the city and explaining that these kinds of things happen in Jerusalem. Because of the characters’ reactions to the supernatural events, the novel has an element of magical realism.

There were a few aspects of the novel that I found problematic. The portion of the book that consists of Charly’s manuscript is too long. This section is necessary to support the themes of identity and memory, but partway through I found myself unsettled and felt as though I’d been abandoned by the narrator. This could be remedied by breaking the narrator’s reading of the manuscript into two parts, with a brief return to the main story halfway through. The manuscript also included quite a lot of poetry, which I began to find a little tiresome.

I also found myself reacting to the book in a very unemotional way. I did not care at all about the narrator—he was not likeable, nor even especially well developed. Strangely, I was much more moved by the characters and the stories in Charly’s manuscript.

Another small complaint: Charly’s manuscript delves into certain aspects of the history of Sephardi Jews. This was fascinating, but not something I was familiar with. Because this history plays such a large role in the themes that the novel explores, it might be beneficial to include a short note at the beginning of the novel to give the reader a brief background.

This is a short book, but not a page-turner. It is, however, very fluid, so it’s not a difficult read. I would recommend this novel for readers who enjoy literary fiction, and it would be an excellent choice for a book club—shorter books are more likely to get read, and there would be plenty to discuss.

I found several typos, so the book would benefit from an additional reading by an editor. However, because the errors weren’t pervasive, and because its shortcomings are outweighed by its unusual sophistication, I rated Andalusian in Jerusalem 4 out of 4 stars.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

onlinebookclub.org 4/4* review of "Andalusian in Jerusalem"

Review by Lovewreading89 -- Andalusian in Jerusalem

Unread post by Lovewreading89 » 30 Jan 2018, 23:42

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4 out of 4 stars

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Andalusian in Jerusalem is written by Mois Benarroch and published in 2015. The book is 170 pages long. This is a translated book from Spanish to English about what it means to be a writer in another country and dealing with religious affiliation. Through different ideals and stories the writer mentions throughout this book. The main character is the Journalist turned novelist writer Guillermo, the stories written by his friend charly, and Nora an acquaintance he meets during his time there. The story takes place in Israel during a writer’s festival that he is attending. While he happens upon a woman who reminds him of his late mother and he reminds her of her long lost son from there the story goes from his story to the story he would like to write. The story is written primarily from Guillermo’s viewpoint, but it is also written like a conversation with someone you have known for a long time.

This book was hard for me to get into at first because it seemed like it was going all over the place with Guillermo’s book ideas and sometimes it felt like rambling. As I kept reading I began to understand where the writer was going with this book. The book has a sense of deeper meaning and understanding. I like that this book has the different viewpoints and that there are many ways this book can be understood differently. It just depends on who is reading it. I found it funny when they were at the hotel it seemed like every woman Guillermo was attracted to would leave with a man named “Jorge”

There was nothing that I didn’t like about the book because this book to me is like reading about philosophy, English, political ideals and history all in one. The book has no chapters. There is one spelling error that in the beginning it is explained that, the manuscript that appears in the middle of the book, the person has spoken Spanish all their lives and is now attempting to write in English, hence the error. There is nothing I wouldn’t change about this book except font size for those who have can’t read small print well with or without glasses. I can relate to Guillermo and take on the word Jewish in the first half of the book it’s like how do people know what religion you are when you haven’t told them anything.

My favorite character in the book was the main character Guillermo. He was dealing with a lot in the book writing for his captives, trying to get a book published, and dealing with is late mother by having a substitute in the woman he met. There is adventure in this book but is of the literary mind. The characters in the book are interesting and engaging. The story does have some funny points and it does raise questions at times.

In conclusion, Andalusian in Jerusalem is a very interesting book with intriguing characters and thought provoking dialog with a story within a story. The book accomplishes its thoughts about what it is to be a writer dealing with various situations within a country. I would recommend this book to a person who is interested in faith, writing, and adventure. This book would do well in a high school or college English class. I rate this book 4 out of 4 for being challenging and well worth the read.

******
Andalusian in Jerusalem 
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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

4/4 stars ANDALUSIAN IN JERUSALEM by Mois Benarroch

Review by AmeliaAndrews -- Andalusian in Jerusalem

Post by AmeliaAndrews » 27 Jan 2018, 10:40
ANDALUSIAN IN JERUSALEM

4 out of 4 stars

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Mois Benarroch's Andalusian in Jerusalem recounts the story of a Spanish writer's adventures in Israel, all the while, pretending to be a Jew and having made a career of writing about Jewish history.

Stylistically, the book is superb, the vivid descriptions and sparse, literal inner monologue of the main character contrasting wonderfully with the absurd and often nightmarish events which take place. The stony acceptance with which these events are met highlights the absurdity of human interactions and the chaotic, meaningless nature of the world, mirroring Kafka - one of the main character's literary inspirations - thematically as well as stylistically.

A related theme of the book is the disparity between appearance and reality. This idea is emphasized throughout the book, set in a city where streets cease to exist for hours or months at a time, characters age decades in the space of minutes and the main character assumes both a fictional identity and a fictional family. One interpretation is that the nature of reality is not fixed or determined and can be changed at will, seen when Guillermo assumes, without evidence, that a certain house exists only at night and is proved to be correct. The notion of a reality determined solely by our actions and interpretations perfectly mirrors Sartre's radical freedom.

Similarly, the theme of personal identity is also key to the book, with the main character adopting a Jewish identity and then another persona entirely, as well as others struggling with personal identity in the face of societal pressures to conform, such as Charly and his characters. This idea is expanded in Charly's manuscript, detailing the stories of forced conversions as well as the search for personal identity in an antagonistic society. One of the important idea which arises is whether identity can be found in the past, through one's cultural heritage and ancestry, or in our present lives and through future children. Perhaps the endless returning to the legacy of the dead is an attempt to find meaning in an otherwise meaningless world, indifferent to human purposes. Another interpretation is that the cultivation of the past into an identity is an attempt to reconcile pain, particularly prominent in the tales of religious persecution described in the story.

A final point of interest is the commentary of characters, who are writers, on the nature of a writer's duty. This is a profound discussion, offering the perspective that writing is of such importance that it should take precedence over all other pursuits, Charly telling Guillermo that being a writer is more important than an editor and that 'true' writers are hard to come by. In this mindset, literature is valuable because it provides some connection to knowledge and truth, which is regarded as inherently valuable.

In conclusion, this book is exceptionally well-written, a thrilling adventure and insight into a great mind, recommended to anyone interested in Spanish or Jewish culture, writing as profession or existentialist themes. It makes for an extremely sophisticated and at times surreal read, echoing the literary styles of Franz Kafka, as well as exploring some of his favoured themes, engaging and exceptional in parts and thus deserving of a rating of 4 out of 4 stars.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Review of -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch

Review by Ikingi -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch



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The Expelled vividly captures the urge to belong to a society that constantly criticizes you. How do you fit in a community that supposedly welcomes you with open arms but later on digs into your origin? Mois uses the context of stories within a story creatively without breaking the flow. Stuck between defending his identity as a Jew and defending his place of birth, language and culture, he creatively uses own persona to bring out the challenges affecting immigrant communities.

Mois explore various themes through self-dialogue as well as conversations in juxtaposition. Do we belong just because we share the same ethnicity? Do we belong just because we believe that the land we live in was granted to us by our creator? How do we treat people who supposedly belong to us but where born and brought up in diverse continents and culture? How do we blend in, accommodate and flourish in our diversity rather than disintegrate.


The book is an interesting read for individuals in structured communities that are trying to evolve into a global village. Combined with Mois’ prose, stories within a story, The Expelled is an intuitive read. I would have also loved to read the book in its original language, Hebrew. However, that’s a challenge to me an East African used to English as the main foreign language from my childhood. The book will be an interesting read to people in states facing constant change especially, negative ethnicity as well as string individual opinions.

The bus ride from ocean to sea across Europe clearly brings out the divisions we create in our own minds. The Front people despise the back people for the mere fact that they are seated at the back. Do we choose where to seat on a bus? Should we be hated for sitting at the back of the bus? Low self-esteem by the back people is vividly brought out by Grammatical and her lover.

Is Cash’s death literal? From the bus story, Cash is both literal and also used metaphorically to show what we the world adore. The passengers decide to pray to cash, whom they have now christened a saint for their own safety and to keep off self-guilt. Even though the team is hungry, we can’t rule out the passengers had cash but there were no shops to buy food.

This is an interesting book for all literature lovers. I would recommend the book to anyone interested in building their story telling skills even though it might be boring to casual readers. I give the book a 3 out of 4 stars.

******
The Expelled 
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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Review - The Expelled by Mois Benarroch

Review by Narcissa13 -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch

Post by Narcissa13 » 17 Jan 2018, 22:54
[Following is a volunteer review of "The Expelled" by Mois Benarroch.]
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For those of you who enjoyed the works of Franz Kafka, Mikhail Bulgakov, and Nikolai Gogol, The Expelled by Mois Benarroch would be a good choice for you. In his work of modern fiction Mr. Benarroch takes the reader through a wide range of psychological and mystic, if not somewhat supernatural, phenomena in a fast pace trip through the eyes of a writer at a creative crisis who encounters some rather unusual circumstances.

The story is set in Tel Aviv, and is told from a first person perspective. The narrator is a struggling author whose relationship with his wife is becoming increasingly strained and difficult. During the course of a bus ride he sees a woman who is a double of his wife, only ten years younger. Wondering if she is really the same woman (it seems impossible) he approaches her and discovers that she is the same person, yet she doesn’t know him. The narrator and his wife’s double start an affair, as it were, the dynamic between them mimicking that of that with his wife when they first met.

During one of their meetings he reads her a story he has written about a group of people on a bus ride that encounter a number of strange, inexplicable, and frequently stark and violent circumstances. He finishes reading the story, in and of itself a considerable section of the plot, and continues his relationship with his wife’s younger double until the situation resolves itself in a manner both predictable and unpredictable.

Within the basic framework of the story, using a writing style and tone similar to that of a personalized journal entry or a person talking or thinking to oneself, the author discusses a wide variety of controversial topics such as national and religious identity, societal perception of various religious groups, and sexual interest and frustration to name a few. Frequently he introduces these topics in the manner of a thought occurring almost at random to the narrator and subsequently relayed to the audience.

From my personal perspective I thought Mr. Benarroch’s use of the story-within-a-story technique to introduce a vast array of complicated topics was impressive. The story about ‘The Bus’, at least from my perspective was an ingenious way of portraying a range of complex phenomena such as the uncertainty of life in a region plagued by terrorism and the warped and somewhat negative way that human psychology can change and evolve in dangerous, uncertain situations. The author, again in first person perspective, presents a vast array of concepts in a relatively very small amount of text.

I would rate this story as a 3 out of 4 stars. I think it sits between a 2 and a 4 because while The Expelled is a very complex story rather cunningly written to use a small novel-sized book to touch base on a vast number of very difficult to address topics, it can at times be difficult to track the exact interactions between characters and concepts at a few points. The feature just mentioned is very probably a literary technique intended to create a feeling of uncertainty and of being off-balance in the reader, which is actually what I perceive the author’s aim was by writing it this way. However for readers less accustomed to unusual phenomena such as walls appearing and disappearing and transitioning quickly from event to event without much time or space involved, the book might seem disconcerting and might leave some readers behind.

If you enjoy some mysticism and a sense of suspended reality then The Expelled by Mois Benarroch will be a good trip into the less certain aspects of the world.

******
The Expelled 
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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Review by juliusotinyo -- Gates to Tangier

Review by juliusotinyo -- Gates to Tangier

Post Number:#1 by juliusotinyo » 20 Jun 2017, 13:15
[Following is a volunteer review of "Gates to Tangier" by Mois Benarroch.]

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3 out of 4 stars

Review by juliusotinyo

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Gates to tangier, by Mois Benarroch.

The story revolves around siblings of a Sephardic Jewish family initially based in Morocco but due to immigration different family members are now living in Paris, Madrid, New York and Jerusalem. From the onset the book presents you with their challenges beginning with the loss of their father and the shock of the impending quest he leaves on his will, a quest to find their secret half brother in Morocco. As they begin the quest their individual personal conflicts play out mainly on family life, marriage, immigration and integration in their settled lands. The story is about family ties, dealing with loss, Zionism and immigration from a Sephardic Jewish point.

After the death of the Benzimra's family patriarch, four siblings; Isaque, Messod, Silvia and Alberto reluctantly depart for Tétouan Morocco to find their secret half brother Yosef. Who is the illegitimate child their father had with a former maid in Morocco, and had been kept a secret till his death. They are obligated to do so as a prerequisite to unlock their inheritance before 5 years of their father's death. Messod, Sylvia and Alberto meet up with their brother Isaque at Barajas airport, where ironically each sibling in their own way see or picture their dead brother Israel wandering about in the airport. I would say in their unity to find a secret brother they remember a brother they truly lost. The journey will take them through Malaga all the way to their destination in Tétouan and finally to Chauoen Morocco. What they find and its underlying mystery is a nice blend of thrilling suspense and scandal, fit for a good read.

The Author's use of monologue from each of the main characters captured their thoughts and feelings nicely giving them a personal feel; making you part of the story, something that I enjoyed a lot. However, it was hard at times to follow especially when the author used unfamiliar Hebrew/Jewish terms which forced me to look them up before continuing. The author also paid too much attention to the personal conflicts of the 4 siblings and less on the actual half brother, hopefully meant for a sequel I hope. Though I still welcome the twist in the end and overall liked the story.

I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in Jewish history and not for those who don't. Also the Sephardic-Ashkenazi rift plays out a lot and especially through Alberto Benzimra. Though not entirely negative, it is being described through a Sephardic Jew and anyone with sensibilities on the subject may take offence.

I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars!

There were several grammar errors, specifically an excessive use of hyphenated words like sic-k, of-ten where inappropriate and I'd also recommend use of a glossary to explain unfamiliar terms, is why I'd not give it a 4. I'd not rate it a 2 because I enjoyed the story and really connected with the characters enough to look for the sequel.

******
Gates to Tangier 
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Review by Genna H -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch

Review by Genna H -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch

Post Number:#1 by Genna H » 07 Mar 2017, 21:46
[Following is a review of "The Expelled" by Mois Benarroch.]

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Mois Benarroch’s The Expelled is a story within a story, each with its own subtleties. The author has written in such a manner that you are unsure whether the events in the main story are fact or fiction, mixing story-telling with narrative, creating an interesting, though initially confusing, blend.

The main story centers on a man whose name is not given – we are left to assume that the character is Mois Benarroch himself. He is a Moroccan Jew, which is a central point to the story as it identifies him in the interlaced theme of racism, segregation, and the affects of each on the individual. As a Moroccan Jew, he is an outcast – his Jewish settlement in Morocco no more and considered too dirty to be accepted in Israel.

As the book continues, Mois begins an affair with a younger version of his wife, Gabrielle, and the affair leads to the story within the story. It’s a story about a bus where the majority (front people) decide that they are better and choose to take command of the bus, creating rules that determine when those less worthy (back people) can use the toilet, how much say they have in the affairs of the bus, even their life and death.

The inner story shows the journey of how segregation begins and its progress – from creating a name of separation to creating the space of separation, and eventually the acceptance of separation as normal. Meanwhile, the outer story of Mois shows what it is in real life – the struggle to be published, the surprise expressed by others when you act contrary to how they think “someone like you” should behave; the feeling of being an eternal outsider.

There was a lot that I liked about this book and a few nuances of which I was not so keen. That being said, I rate this book as 3 out of 4 stars. The psychological and philosophical points which Mois presented in his work kept me intrigued. He managed to present the very contemporary issues of racism and segregation boldly while still being fair-minded and honest. Having experienced racism in Israel, he expresses a duality that separates his life – one where he chooses not to accept the view that he is lesser because of the nation of his birth and one where he would attempt to hide who he was in order to avoid being the outcast – to be one of the majority.

It certainly made me reassess my thoughts on racism from the victim’s point of view. It also brought to light the idea of how racism and segregation begins and how, once it becomes rooted and established, the majority don’t recognize that it is happening or don’t realize it is wrong.

I chose not to give four stars because it did seem to ramble at times. This may have been intentional by the author, but the story was hard to follow at times with its abrupt switches from one story to the other. It also seemed to have some rambling inserted for humor’s sake. At the beginning and at times throughout I found it to be irritating, as though the author were trying to force me to laugh; however, as the book continued, there were times when the subtle humor worked well and felt very natural.

All-in-all, this was a good book that would appeal to thinkers. While it is an enjoyable book, there is more to it than simply reading for entertainment. This is reading for enrichment – reading of another person’s experiences and opinions, of how they were formed and why they are important to all of us today.

******
The Expelled 
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BOOK Review by veniq mars -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch

Review by veniq mars -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch

Post Number:#1 by veniq mars » 10 May 2017, 12:14
[Following is a volunteer review of "The Expelled" by Mois Benarroch.]

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Title: The expelled
Author: Mois Benarroch
Translator: Pamela Deccache
Publisher: Babelcube Incorporated
Genre: Science fiction / fantasy


The narrator comes across Gabrielle, a lady identical to his wife though younger. He ends up cheating on his wife with her. The fact that that lady is actually hi real wife is amazing. He reads her one of his latest work about an hijacked bus and there is drama in the bus regarding the front and back people. The novel is about a story where in the middle someone tells another story. You come across the expelled, the Sephardim who arrived in Morocco after the inquisition. The narrator however feels feels expelled as well. He goes further to explain how. The novel turns into a chilling and far reaching reminder that a story in a story can create a rewarding adventure. Mois presents himself as one of the gifted and acclaimed writer through this work.

The writer turns off a tangent in between the story and suddenly you are extra informed about the discrimination surrounding him against minorities and poverty. He further shares the struggle he goes through as a writer and that he is actually a man of straw. He does not put too much focus on the theme and this avoids boredom. The novel is not so immersed in the main theme.

I love the humour portrayed. Who does not love laughing when reading books. The writer makes fun of serious and emotional situations. Describing security check as machines looking for bombs. How he cools down a boner when he has one, he thinks about the tractors of kibbutz . So much more humour as you keep going. I will definitely remember to grab Mois' work the next time I am down. Books are meant to uplift spirits, they are not supposed to be boring. This is what this unique work is all about.

Every music lover should read this book, the narrator believes he has a music station in his head where he keeps changing songs according to the mood and condition he finds himself in. It also a recommendation for comedy lovers too. Both of them must love reading books first. Such books are sometimes rare to come across. Even so, its really hard to actually settle on a specific group to recommend. If you are a lover of fantasy then it is basically ideal. Most skeptical readers will conclude feeling less gloomy.

The fact that it is a translation makes you scared of the grammar mistakes that you expect. Its positive that the mistakes although present , are few. Somehow you understand the reason for their existence. Apart from the grammar mistakes, it is dense in substance. I love reading this book but even so, it could be much fun if there were no such mistakes.

I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. It is not that bad off after all. It is dramatic. It is full of humour. It is unique. And a lot of readers will find it interesting. No doubt. If you only read one book a year, this is absolutely it.

******
The Expelled 
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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Review -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch

Review by cholmes -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch



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The Expelled written by Mois Benarroch and translated by Pamela Daccache is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma or as the author writes “A story that’s inside another and another and another and apparently they all have nothing to do with each other, or they don’t, even if one tries to find a link.” Perhaps on the surface these stories have nothing to do with one another, but then again, perhaps they do.

The book begins with the narrator as he travels home from Tel Aviv, mindlessly describing his life, his work, and his wife whom he believes wants a divorce, when he sees a young woman who looks exactly as his wife did, twenty-five years ago. Slightly shocked that such an impossible thing could happen he follows her and strikes up a conversation with the woman. The narrator tries to rationalize how the woman in front of him could possibly be his wife, but twenty-five years younger, and yet she is. 

From there the story diverts and becomes another story, which in turn becomes yet another, forcing the reader to decide what is reality and what is impossible. “…it’s a story about love, indifference, fiction, reality or reality that merges with fiction.” Following along the author’s twists and turns through the narrative is like riding a roller-coaster in complete darkness; you have no idea what will happen yet you have some security that you will come out on the other side safely. Even if you question that security, the ride is still enjoyable because it is frightening and unknown; the danger is what makes it fun. So too is the danger in The Expelled enjoyable. How will the author make sense of his predicament? How will he understand what is happening to him and put it in a context the reader will relate to. 

It all comes back to who and what belongs in certain spaces and certain times. Can one person exist in the same space at different times? Can they have multiple identities yet still be the same person? Can the real and the unreal exist in the same plane? And who are you when you are from one place and yet not of that place? Benarroch plays with these seemingly answerless questions and attempts to answer them through his narrative in The Expelled

I give The Expelled 3 out of 4 stars. The book is well written with an unusual narrative voice that pulls you into each story and won’t let go until it is through with you. An unconventional read at worst and philosophical at best, this book asks so many questions that the reader must try to understand and answer, sometimes it’s tough to keep up. I enjoyed the mix of realism and fantasy; it is the only way for the author to have gotten his point across to his readers. At times the multiple story plots can become confusing as the reader tries to untangle exactly where they are in the story while simultaneously dig out further meaning from the narrative, yet the overall impact of the book leaves one questioning further the idea of a bifurcated life and the consequences of it. 

The Expelled by Mois Benarroch is at times confusing and so fantastic the reader loses sight of what the author’s underlying idea is, yet the idea is so powerful it shines through even the most tangled web of narrative.

******
The Expelled 
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