Monday, September 25, 2017

Review -- The Immigrant's Lament

Review by uzeziq -- The Immigrant's Lament

Post Number:#1 by uzeziq » 10 Jul 2017, 11:58
[Following is a volunteer review of "The Immigrant's Lament" by Mois benarroch.]

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The Immigrant’s Lament is an English translation of a collection of poems written by Mois Benarroch and published by Moben Publishing in 2016. The poems were originally written in Hebrew and published in 1994. There are a total of 53 poems in the book which contains 91 pages.

The book received its’ title from the first poem that appeared in the collection ‘The Immigrant’s lament’. It is not only the first poem but also the longest in the book. The poem introduces us to the plight of the poet, how he became an unhappy immigrant when his family relocated from Morocco, his birth place to Israel. It also highlights the dilemma and challenges he faced in settling down and accepting his new environment – if he ever did. This introduction is necessary as it creates the bedrock the reader needs to understand and decipher the geographical setting of the poems in the book as Israel, where the poet writes, as an immigrant. The poet is also able to make the reader understand better why he judges almost everything from the perspective he does, as an immigrant, from the culture to politics and religion. Although this poem takes a narrative form, it subtly moves the reader to feel pity for the poet and thus, take sides with him which becomes an important factor in making the reader accept his views and emotions in the poems that come after.

The poems in the book convey the themes of love, politics, religion, war, fear and uncertainty. The poet made use of a combination of rich poetic elements that made the content both engaging and interesting. He also introduced humor which helped ease the tense mood that some of the poems created and everything seemed to balance out fine. Throughout the book, the poet does not aim to force or convince the reader to accept his views, rather, he presents the poems as a dialogue he is having with himself. Nonetheless, he succeeds in keeping the reader’s attention with the use of imagery and rhetorical questions and thereby, sustaining the reader’s interest in his dialogue.

In the PDF version, there are some noticeable editing errors ranging from wrong spelling and omitted letters to improper spacing; some of which include ‘the outsiderwhen’ on page 3, ‘I sing you a love son.’ on page 45, ‘for Peace Now peoplethey’ on page 85, ‘I’m here to prouve you wrong’ on page 68, among others. Also, the “Table of Contents” is found at the last two pages of the book which made it really tiring and difficult for me to navigate to certain poems or areas of interest as I have to scroll through the entire book to look for the page number of a particular poem. It would have been better if the “Table of Contents” was placed before the poems for easy navigation.

In my opinion, The Immigrant's Lament will be well suited to all lovers of poetry. However, it contains a few non-English words and phrases such as “awadel yahoud”, “ze kaparateja”, and others. Some of them are Hebrew while others are Arabic. There are two poems in the book with French titles, ‘Les Entrailles Du Poete’ and ‘Les Poetes Maudits’. All of these words were foreign to me and I had to do a research to understand the meaning of the words before I could fully grab the context of what was said by the poet. Some readers might consider this a tedious process. Nonetheless, if effort is made to get the meaning of the words, it would become hard not to find the book interesting.

I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars because what it lacked in editing, was properly made up for in its’ interesting content.

The Immigrant's Lament 
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Friday, September 22, 2017

4/4 Review of Raquel Says (Something Entirely Unexpected) in online book club

Review by Fabiana -- Raquel Says (Something Entirely Unexpected)

Post Number:#1 by Fabiana » 14 Mar 2017, 07:48

[Following is a review of "Raquel Says (Something Entirely Unexpected)" by Mois benarroch.]

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4 out of 4 stars

Review by Fabiana

A beautiful love story of and about otherness. Raquel Says (Something Entirely Unexpected)by Mois Benarroch opens, as promised in the title, with an entirely unexpected, surreal premise: “Today, and only today, you may create a person” – these are the words that one day appear out of the blue on the writer’s computer. And thus emerges THE OTHER, the one who is the same but not quite, the half that could complete the whole.

Mois and Raquel’s chance encounter in their forties, while they live in different parts of the world and are both disenchanted with their family lives and life in general, opens them to a love they didn’t know existed. Soon their daily conversations, through emails and phone calls, become as vital as the air they breathe. What unites them is the deep, invisible and yet unbreakable bond of shared roots, shared history and the call to give that history a voice. Mois and Raquel are both writers, and they were born in the same city, the no longer existing Hebrew Tetouan. They are “the last Tetuanis”. 

Rather than finding one’s soulmate, the theme that lies at the core of this intimate and intense first-person narrative (with a twist) is the quest for identity, and literature itself. How does a Sephardic Jewish writer, born in Morocco and now living in Israel, find his voice and a sense of belonging? In an age of globalization and multilingualism, how does an immigrant escape the great sense of isolation that lies beneath the apparent unity of the big “melting pot”? How can one language feel harsh and oppressive, and the other, sweet and soothing? What creates the urge to write, to tell one’s story? What’s the secret behind the flow of words? Do words and writing have a mysterious power that can make parallel lines intersect outside the limits of time and space? 

Drawing on existential récit and autobiographical elements, Mois Benarroch tackles all these questions and more in his free flowing jeu d’esprit, an intricate web of thoughts, memories, hopes and dreams, in which are seamlessly interwoven the mystical and the mundane, prose and poetry, the past, present and future, what is and what could have been. Taking us through a maze of labyrinths and gardens of forking paths, where time and space can be distorted, suspended or even erased, where the virtual can be more real than the “real life”, and where at times silences can speak louder than words, Benarroch is presenting the readers with a literary puzzle: who is Raquel? The clues to the mystery are hidden in plain sight throughout the whole book. 

One of the things Raquel urges Mois to do, since he has written all his previous novels in Hebrew, the language of his adoptive country, or rather his land of exile, is to start writing in Spanish, his mother tongue. I must admit I was a bit baffled at first. As a literary translator, I’ve always considered multilingualism as a marvelous tool rather than an obstacle. So, what does it matter what language we write in, as long as we get our message across? After all, there I was, reading the English translation (and a pretty good one at that, I might add) and none of the book’s essence was lost on me. But then I read an excerpt of the same book in Spanish, and I understood. Here’s just one example. “I wait there. I despair. Wait there and despair, but.” The English translation conveys the message, but it doesn’t in the very least capture the breathe in-breathe out musical poetry of the original – “Espero. Desespero. Es, pero.” No, the soul and substance of certain words is untranslatable. 

I whole-heartedly rate this little gem 4 out of 4 stars. An intriguing and thought-provoking page-turner that will probably be best enjoyed by the more advanced readers who are not afraid to step out of their comfort zone. 

“By admitting five years ago my situation as an eternal immigrant, of being a country of one person, of being the eternal immigrant from that country, I found a room for me in this house called Earth. It’s a small room with no windows, but it has a door and a key.
Someday I’ll have to learn to leave this room.”

Raquel Says (Something Entirely Unexpected) 
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Review by Tim Bets -- Gates to Tangier by Mois Benarroch

Review by Tim Bets -- Gates to Tangier by Mois Benarroch

Post Number:#1 by Timbets » 05 Jan 2017, 20:25
[Following is the official review of "Gates to Tangier" by Mois Benarroch.]

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4 out of 4 stars

It can be a terrible burden and a lot to process when someone dies. When finding out about a brother that never existed until reading the will can be an overwhelming shock. Gates-to-Tangier by Mois Benarroch is a short story about the Benzimra family traveling to Morocco to find a brother they never knew. Finding their brother is the only way they will receive the money left for them.

Isaque, Israel, Fortu, Alberto, and their sister Silvia, are all Jews returning to Morocco. Morocco is a place that became exile because it is without Jews. Therefore, these siblings, have not been to Morocco in years. If it were not for the will, they would probably not have gone back at all. While forming a plan to try to find their brother Zohra, mixed emotions, confusion, and frustration combined make it hard for the siblings to want to complete the job they were given. What they didn't know is their brother Zohra is a woman. Can they complete the task to find their brother?

Zohra has been with her boyfriend for 2 years. For the longest time, Zohra was confused as to why she cannot have children even though she knows why. The reason still does not make sense to her. Zohra decides to do more research. Once she found the answer, her whole life could change. The biggest question for her is, what would become of Marcel and me?

I enjoyed the story about the siblings looking for their brother. It wasn't too short or too long. I did not find any mistakes at all. The author did a very good job relating details up to the end. The characters were also broken down to sections so that you could read about them one at a time instead of all at once. It felt like you got to know them better that way. There wasn't much I did not like about the story. I was disappointed to find out the news about Zohra, however it did make the story even more interesting. So it was a very good twist that was not expected.

I would rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. I would highly recommend this to anyone, except young children. Do not let the first sentence fool you. I almost wondered at first what I got myself into. Once I got past that part I can understand why it was written that way. The only thing I would say that could maybe be different is the first sentence because not everyone likes to read a book beginning that way.

Gates to Tangier 
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4/4 Review of Gates to Tangier on onlinebookclub

Review by darcyb123 -- Gates to Tangier by Mois Benarroch

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4 out of 4 stars

Review by darcyb123

Gates to Tangier, by Mois Benarroch, is a novel about family, fate, and the innate longing to return home. The story deals with our innermost driving desire to know who we are, who we may become, and the eternal mystery involved in the search for meaning and fulfillment in our lives. Several narrators tell the story, and for much of the novel, the reader is inside each character’s mind, privy to thoughts and feelings so private they would never be shared with even the closest of friends. The writing is engaging from the first word through the last, and it was difficult for me to lay the book aside once started.

The setting of the book takes place on many stages, Europe, Africa, the United States and Israel. It entails a large Jewish family, some prosperous, some not. Some religious, some not, coming together for the strangest of reasons, to search for someone they neither know nor wish to know. Each member’s inheritance is dependent upon finding a half-brother whose existence was revealed only in the reading of the will. The common thread binding them together of family, customs, and culture, is contrasted with that which divides them; depth of religious belief and practice, education, financial status and childhood memories. Though much of the family remember the same scenes, they are clouded by the colors of the lens each chooses to look through.

The diaspora as a result of World War II forces the family to leave Madrid, Spain for Tangier, Morocco, and from Tangier they scattered to the furthest regions of the world. Some to America, some back to Spain, some to Israel to participate in the earliest Kibbutz and the re-establishing of a Jewish homeland. Because they spread so far apart, they have grown distant, but their forced search together reaffirms and strengthens their family ties.

The characters in Gates of Tangier are engaging, memorable and very real. The theme of family, race and position run through each member’s life and forces them to decide. Are Jews superior to other races? Why are the Semitic Arabs sworn enemies of the Jew? Are they not brothers? Are Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe superior to the Sephardi from the West? Is there anywhere in the world that Jews are truly safe? As each character works through the questions within, he challenges the reader to join the discussion and turn a spotlight on their beliefs regarding race, status, and culture.

I enjoyed  Gates of Tangier so much; I rate it a 4 out of 4-star rating. It was an enjoyable, engaging story, very well written, and memorable. The dynamic of life lays open for all to see, and I, for one, loved it. I was sorry when the book ended and found myself hoping for a sequel.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Review by Kasie Miehlke -- The Nobel Prize by Mois benarroch

Review by KasieMiehlke -- The Nobel Prize by Mois benarroch

Post Number:#1 by KasieMiehlke » 22 Feb 2017, 15:35
[Following is a volunteer review of "The Nobel Prize" by Mois benarroch.]

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I give The Nobel Prize by Mois Benarroch 3 out of 4 stars. The story, written in fictional prose, is a great mix of fantasy, reality, and humor. It shows the struggles and successes of independent artists while addressing the significant role that mental illness plays in society. There were some editorial errors which is the only reason that this book did not get a perfect score. I believe that one more round of editing would fix these editorial problems.

The Nobel Prize follows a writer as he discovers that one of his colleagues has been institutionalized due to a mental illness. Each day the colleague becomes a different character from one of his books. The main character researches the books and their characters. While doing the research and visiting the psychiatric hospital, the main character gets an idea for a new novel. Will this new novel be the break that he is looking for? It is a great story within a story.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The length was perfect. I also liked the way the author touched on the subject of mental disease. The way Benarroch showed the seriousness of mental illness while incorporating a light humor was extremely tasteful. The struggles that the main character faces is an informative and eye opening reality that artists must deal with. The Nobel Prize is a great story that brings some serious issues to light while allowing humor to lessen the impact. The book kept my interest the entire time.

There were some editorial issues that caused me to backtrack in some areas thinking that I had missed something. These distractions did cause me to take a little longer in reading the book and caused a minor inconvenience. I do believe that another round of editing would take care of most, if not all, of these issues.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Noble Prize. The story within a story kept my interest the entire time. It touched on several issues that affect everyone in the population in some form. The author did a great job at incorporating humor to lessen the severity of mental issues and the struggles of being an artist. It did not get a perfect review due to some minor editorial issues that can very easily be taken care of. It was the right length for a quick and enjoyable read. I will recommend this book to everyone in the future.

The Nobel Prize 
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Review -- Keys to Tetouan by Mois Benarroch - Llaves de Tetuán

Review by Dh_ -- Keys to Tetouan by Mois Benarroch

Post Number:#1 by Dh_ » 18 Feb 2017, 22:36
[Following is a review of "Keys to Tetouan" by Mois Benarroch.]

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3 out of 4 stars

The book Keys to Tetouan by Mois Benarroch is quite an interesting book and the first of its type that I have ever read. The book is in an unusual format, but I found that this format left you asking more questions and wanting to keep reading until you found the answers. The characters in the book are each described very well, so it feels like you personally know them. As for the writing, I was impressed by the writing in several parts because it was almost poetic. Overall, I give the book 3 out of 4 stars.

The book focuses on the story of the Benzimra family: a Jewish family that has been around for several generations. The family has an incredible number of relatives, most of which are described or describe themselves, and they each have their own story. The family is spread out around the world and has been for centuries; some living in South America and others in Europe. The book is told as if it were a compilation of stories all revolving around one main idea: their Jewish roots, their home (Tetouan), and finding their family history. Even though the author is Mois Benarroch, it feels like there are countless authors because many of the characters share pieces of their life story and personal experiences. Each character has their own way of expressing themselves and their opinions that makes them stand out among the rest, a trait not found in many books.

I rated this book 3 out of 4 stars because it was good, but it wasn’t amazing. I will admit that it was beautifully written and that you can feel the writer’s emotions through their words, which is probably what I liked the most about it. Whenever each character speaks, it feels like they are talking directly to you. I also really liked how vividly each moment is described. I liked the way that the author connected the characters and how each character’s part of the story contributed to the big picture.

As I mentioned above, it wasn’t amazing. There were a few grammatical errors here and there. Also, I felt like the plot was lacking a little more excitement or suspense. There were very few plot twists and that is what I personally love to find in a book. The story itself flowed very nicely, but it didn’t have the element of surprise. I didn’t find the book exciting, but rather educational. The author includes many historical events and explains the religious situation at the time, so some parts reminded me of reading a history textbook instead of a story.

Since the book gives a lot of importance to the Jewish religion and their customs, as well as their history, I would recommend it to readers that have an interest in that sort of thing. By that I mean readers that enjoy historical books or are interested in the Jewish religion. I think that even people that don’t care for these things can enjoy the book as well, because those things don’t appeal to me, yet I liked it. Nevertheless, I would recommend it to anyone that likes to read about history or wants to know more about Judaism.

Keys to Tetouan 
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Review -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch

Review by Rosemary Okoko -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch

Post Number:#1 by Rosemary Okoko » 22 Jun 2017, 00:53
[Following is a review of "The Expelled" by Mois Benarroch.]

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4 out of 4 stars

Review by Rosemary Okoko

The Expelled By Mois Benarroch
Writers’ lives are so boring that the only thing that saves them from boredom is making up stories like young children who create imaginary friends and give them names to fill their world. These are the words of Mois Benarroch, the author of The Expelled. This book is a non-fiction narrative that has some touch of romance. The author uses ‘he’ and ‘she’ interchangeably as his characters change from ‘he’ to ‘she’. The author gives a narration of a bus ride he took. The people seated at the back were referred to as ‘back people’ and those in front as ‘front people’. Front people hated back people so much that they could not allow them to use the ‘can’ which was another name for the washroom. A boundary line had to be drawn in the middle to separate them. Back people were regarded as dirty, smelly and violent, by the front people. As using the ‘can’ was a necessity, back people complained and front people decided that they could only use it at specific hours. The author was sitting at the back. When sleeping, there was a gunshot and he woke up to find that Cash, the fifteen year old boy who had been sitting next to him, had been shot dead. Nobody owned up to killing him even though one passenger had a gun in his hands. This passenger with a gun was one of the front people. The front people made the decision on how to get rid of Cash’s body and proceed with the journey. They gave him the name Saint Cash, prayed for him and later offered prayers to him. They also blamed him for any shortcomings, attributing this to the fact that he was murdered.

The author, having moved with his family from Morocco, was living in Israel. Here, anyone from Morocco was regarded uneducated and violent. They were looked down upon and whenever the author tried to prove that he was from Morocco even by showing his identity card, people would not believe it and wondered why he was different and nice. The author says that in order to stop being different, he had to stop being born in Morocco, something that no one knows how to do yet, and if anyone knows, they have not shared it. At one time he decided that he was from France and even hated a Moroccan poet who declared openly that he was from Morocco. After a while, the author changed his perception and decided to like this author and even make it known that he himself was from Morocco. He lived as a recluse, a leper and an expelled.

The author’s story of the bus is reflective of the oppression his people faced in Israel. The expelled were not allowed to make decisions. ‘The front people throw stones. When the back people throw them back they call us terrorists though back people were opposed to stone throwing because it didn’t seem humane to them’. This summarizes the feelings of the author as one of the expelled. I liked this book because you have to jog your mind and put two and two together to understand the story.

I enjoyed reading this book which has undergone professional editing. A few errors on spacing could be blamed on the format. Having read other books by this author, I find this book the easiest to understand and will rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. I have no reason to rate it lower.

I recommend this book to anyone who would like to read on oppression and identity crisis. When looked down upon, you might get tempted to change your identity so as to be accepted by those who hate you. This book contains some explicit content.

Review of Keys to Tetouan

Review by Emunah An -- Keys to Tetouan by Mois Benarroch

Post Number:#1 by EmunahAn » 06 Aug 2017, 05:56
[Following is a volunteer review of "Keys to Tetouan" by Mois Benarroch.]

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3 out of 4 stars

Review by EmunahAn

Fernando Benzimra is a man of Jewish ancestry who is eager to trace his roots back to Tetouan. The story starts with a conversation between him and his cousin Moshe Benzimra. Fernando has recently found out that he is of Jewish ancestry which has sparked his curiosity in learning about his family and homeland. As the story progresses, more characters of the Benzimra family are introduced by the writer. These characters narrate their different experiences throughout key events of Jewish history.

The story mostly features Tetouan, a town in Morocco where Jews moved to after expulsion in Spain. The main family featured in the book, the Benzimra family, is from Tetouan but its members are spread out all over the world in places such as Paris, Greece, New York, Madrid and Jerusalem. The book also features the Jewish return to Israel from around the world. Within the book are short conversations held between Jewish family members that give the reader first-hand experience of families moving from the current cities they reside in to Tetouan looking for answers and a place that they can really call home.

The book is mainly built around Jewish culture and the events that have shaped its history. It has a unique style of narration. The author builds characters through their own narration of parts of their lives from a first person position. The author does not expound much on the characters and only gives the reader a glimpse of their lives, leaving details to the reader’s imagination. This type of writing ensured that I remained alert to understand the story and connected me more closely to the characters.

Keys to Tetouan by Mois Benarroch is a work of historical fiction majorly based on Jewish heritage. The writer, Mois Benarroch, carefully presents different feelings of members of the Benzimra family which gives the reader first-hand experience of what the Jews have been through, throughout different centuries. He expounds on their feeling of homelessness and their survival through incredible adversity.

The book was an informative read. I got to learn about different important events and culture of the Jewish people and the ways these two aspects have shaped their attitudes and way of life as told by Mois Benarroch. The book is best suited for anyone who wants to learn about Jewish history. It, however, lacks the ability to captivate the reader through suspense and dramatization. In addition to this, too many characters are introduced too randomly. I, therefore, rate the book 3 out of 4 stars.

Review -- Raquel Says (Something Entirely Unexpected )

Review by Chrys Brobbey -- Raquel Says (Something Entirely Unexpected ) 

Post Number:#1 by Chrys Brobbey » 10 Apr 2017, 01:34
[Following is a review of "Raquel Says (Something Entirely Unexpected)" by Mois benarroch.]

Book Cover

4 out of 4 stars

Review by Chrys Brobbey

One day while going about his business as a writer the unexpected happens. The author returns from a short break only to discover that an invisible hand has left him a message. It is not an incoming email, as you may think, but one typed onto the document he is working on. And to add to the mystery the message reads: “Today, and only today, you may create a person.” Create a person? How surreal! The attached condition is that the person to be created must have been born in the same year as the author, and in the same city. Could it get any more bizarre than that? So instead of writing a novel with fictional characters the author creates a person. Yes, an actual person. She is the one his female character is always based on – a woman whom he had felt close to for a long time. She lives a parallel life to him, and she is called Raquel. If you are intrigued enough you can get to know more about Raquel in the flesh, as she engages in lively flirtation with the author throughout the pages of the book “Raquel Says (Something Entirely Unexpected)”.

The book is the brainwork of Mois Benarroch. It is the version translated from Spanish into English by Sally Seward in 2015. The author in 2009 was awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize in Israel, and in 2012 he won the Yehuda Amichai Prize for Poetry. Born in (Spanish) Morocco in 1959, he has since been living in Israel where his parents relocated when he was thirteen years old.

In the book Mois Benarroch takes the reader with him on a ride as he tries to re-discover and identify with his Moroccan roots. He talks about his loneliness, his feeling of being in exile in Israel and his conflicted personality. He sees his family’s move to Israel as “leaving my house alone, without my footsteps, and without my shadow.” I empathize with him about his feeling of alienation in his adopted land. The recreation of himself as a female serves as a means of escapism for him. In the guise of Raquel he lives a parallel life in Madrid and writes in his mother tongue Spanish, as if he never left his roots. His make-believe living in two worlds, two cultures thus mitigates his ambivalence.

I recommend the book as good material to gain some knowledge about the politics and society in Israel as a whole. The European (Ashkenazi) Jews have since the founding of Israel in 1948 constituted the elite class. Mois Benarroch’s parents migrated from Morocco to Israel because they are Sephardic Jews. The author alleges discrimination against his class of Jews. To quote him: “They see us as a challenge, a threat to Israeli society for not being Western enough.” This brings to mind the demonstration by the resettled Ethiopian Jews in Tel Aviv in 2015 against the perceived racism against them.

While I sympathize with the author, I get the impression that he carries his fight against the system too far. By writing “I talked non-stop to everyone about it” his insistence may be nauseating to the point of chilling the response of the powers that be. He seems to play his activist role of ‘voice for the voiceless’ overtime. No wonder that he says he is assaulted with letters and phone calls about being crazy. He becomes the problem then, instead of the solution to the wrongs that he alludes to. However, his cry is heartfelt when he laments that “They ask me to get rid of my past to be one of them. Not that I don’t want to, but that I can’t.” I will leave it up to readers to get a first-hand feel of his dilemma as they browse the pages of the book.

The style of writing is in the first person. In tone the author uses a monologue addressed to his other self. This makes the reading somewhat monotonous due to the multiple use of ‘I’ and ‘my’ and the lack of varied sentence structures. However, this is compensated for by the passion and the flow of the narrative. I find it not a book to read for pleasure or relaxation, but one that fuels thinking about cultural differences, prejudices, racism and assimilation. Sections of the book are in poetic form, and have to be read over and over slowly to absorb the meaning.

I picked the book expecting to review a novel, as identified on the cover. But I find it to be other than a novel. Perhaps the tag of a ‘Metaphysical Memoir’ may be more apt. The author admits, however, that: “Anything called a novel sells better, than those called something else.” That makes me laugh at his marketing gimmick.

I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. Immigrants trapped in other cultures will identify with the book. It is also a good source of educative information to all about Israel. I liked living in its mystical fantasy that operates in the present, past and future simultaneously. Its combination of prose and poetry makes it unique. It is rich in imagery, as when the author writes that he and Raquel live in books just as words live among pages. I leave the rest up to your imagination, until you uncover the one-in-a-pair in the pages of “Raquel Says (Something Entirely Unexpected)”. Like a twist on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Raquel Says (Something Entirely Unexpected) 
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Review of -- Gates to Tangier

Review by Pilar Guerrero -- Gates to Tangier

Post Number:#1 by Pilar Guerrero » 13 Mar 2017, 13:30
[Following is a volunteer review of "Gates to Tangier" by Mois Benarroch.]

Book Cover

4 out of 4 stars

Review by Pilar Guerrero

Gates of Tangier is the third book of The Tétouan Trilogy, a historical fiction novel that explores the sufferings and ordeals that Jews have endured for centuries. The protagonists are five siblings of the Benzimra family from Tétouan. The story begins when a lawyer finishes reading the will of the protagonists’ father, who put his children a condition to receive the inheritance: the siblings must find their half-brother born from a Muslim woman around 30 years ago.

This clause puts the protagonists on a journey back to the village where they came from, and it forces them to confront and assume their identity and heritage as Jews, and also to come to terms with their own share of pain and suffering in life.

Even though the protagonists travel from different cities to meet at a Spanish airport and continue the journey to Tétouan, most of the plot takes place in the conversations among the characters, or in their interior monologues. These inner dialogues are powerful and portray the conflicts and the emotions that each sibling goes through. The author creates a multi first person narration technique which allows the reader to see the conflict from each sibling's perspective, so the reader can see a bigger picture of the story that none of the characters can see.

The plot develops as the characters speak and it unfolds at a steady pace on each chapter. In the third part of the story, the plot has a twist that gives the novel a new level of complexity and depth. All the loose ends are tied at the end, but the characters pose questions that may open up the story for a continuation.

What I enjoyed the most in this book were the poems between chapters, the author uses these to introduce other characters that the protagonists do not meet. A well achieved aspect in the novel is the creation of a common thread of pain and frustration in the characters about their lives and about being a Jew. All the characters mention this in their interior monologues, yet they all present it in different shades and manners, making them believable and relatable.

What I found difficult to follow were the dialogues between or among the protagonists, there was no clear indication about who was saying what, and I had to go back a couple of times to make sure that I knew who was speaking with whom.

The book contains only a few grammar mistakes that may distract from the story. I believe this is due to the translation process, I would still recommend a revision to make the narration flawless.

I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars: the story is engaging and the plot well-paced with a surprising twist, the characters talk about history as much as human emotions, making the reader feel for them. Despite the few mistakes, the narration technique is brilliant, especially in the use of poems to enrich the narration and to move the plot forward.

I would recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction, especially those interested in the history of Jews in the world. Readers interested in psychological novels may also find this book appealing.

Gates to Tangier 
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Pilar Guerrero's Latest Review: "Lady Ruth Bromfield" by Gordon Smith
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Review of -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch

Review by Ikingi -- The Expelled by Mois Benarroch

Book Cover

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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