A Vision of Angels by Timothy Jay Smith


Humanizing the futility of war.

Synopsis of A Vision of Angels by Timothy Jay Smith: A terrorist attack planned for Easter Sunday in Jerusalem sets off a chain of events that weave together the lives of an American journalist, Israeli war hero, Palestinian farmer, and Christian grocer.

Alerted to a suicide bomb plot, Major Jakov Levy orders the closure of the border with the Gaza Strip. Unable to get his produce to market, Amin Mousa dumps truckloads of tomatoes in a refugee camp. David Kessler, an American journalist, sees it on television and goes to Gaza for Amin's personal story.

Hamas militants plot to smuggle the bomb out in Paul’s car and retrieve it when he returns home, but he’s unexpectedly detoured on the way. Meanwhile, a Hamas member confesses to the plot, and the race is on to find Paul and retrieve the bomb before the terrorists can.

A Vision of Angels is a human drama set against the background of the Middle East conflict. Ultimately it’s a story of reconciliation and hope, but not before events as tragic as a modern passion play change the lives of four families forever.

My two cents

When I finished this, I heaved a sigh of relief. Such an intense read, I felt like I had battlescars! This book focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and delves into very sensitive religious and cultural differences in the lives of Arabs, Jews and Christians. This being said, this book has the potential to  turn people off it simply because it's charged reading, and it can incite some very strong, hostile feelings in people.

Add to this that any war is difficult; the picture of which is always one of horror, destruction, pain, and grief. Political and religious differences spark a war and each side has their own reasons for fanning these flames. But in the grand scheme of things, we all know that no one wins.

But the saving grace of this novel is that it doesn't take any sides, which is not only quite the feat, but also quite the revelation. This was accomplished by the telling of many little intense sub-stories that showed the impact of war on people. By humanizing both sides, it not only made me see the different views on a war but I felt for those who were caught in its complications. It's difficult to take sides when one understands and empathizes with the characters.

Everything happens at a neck-breaking speed, making for a suspenseful and action-packed read. It was difficult to put this down! I enjoyed becoming privy to political machinations and concessions, the complicated business connections, and simply the everyday of living in the Middle East.

It goes without saying that characters are frightening realistic, multi-dimensional, and brilliantly flawed. There's Major Levy and his family, with his supportive wife, his rebellious son, and a generally oblivious daughter; their family dynamics is fraught with parental expectations but much concern. There's fearless veteran war photojournalist David Kessler, who has close ties with people on both sides of the conflict, out to document the war as only a local could see it. There is Amin Mousa, a highly respected Arab businessman, with a deep family secret, who stands to lose more as the conflict continues.

***

This is a photojournalist's dream of a book. Or if you're a highly visual reader -- like me -- who loves visualizing scenes in a book, then you'll probably enjoy this. There are some extremely compelling images that pop to mind when I recall the story: there's that of a young man reaching out like a good samaritan to a grieved mother cradling her dying son; there's a rash of people who are grabbing as many tomatoes as is humanly possible from a dumptruck in the middle of a desert; there's a bullet-ridden bus of schoolchildren screaming in fright and pain. 

Verdict: This is a brilliantly told novel about the futility of war with compelling imagery and characters that I deeply empathized with. One of my favourite reads for the year, I highly recommend this to those who like suspense-thrillers with well-rounded characters and a story with much heart.

I received an Advanced Reader's Copy from Mind Buck Media in exchange for an honest review.

1 comment

  1. I wanted to let you know that "A Vision of Angels" is a finalist in Foreword Reviews' Book of the Year Award. Established in 1998, Foreword Reviews has become one of the preeminent book reviewers in the U.S. for independent publishers, and strives to introduce readers to writers who have been overlooked by The Big Six. Thanks again for your great review, and being one of the first to discover my novel!

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© guiltless readingMaira Gall