Replenishing the Sea of Galilee: A Family Saga across Ethnicity, Place, and Religion: A Novel by Wagih Abu-Rish
Release Date: August 17, 2021
For folks interested in historical Palestine, for a novel about embracing female sexuality and equality, for sparse language that says a lot
Replenishing the Sea of Galilee is a sweeping story of love, loss and the power of loyalty in the face of conflicting ideologies and religious beliefs. The story begins in 1940s Palestine where twins Rasheed and Rasheeda Dinar work in their family inns. Educated by a Jesuit priest about the essence of his own Muslim religion, relative to love and sex, Rasheed follows closely the teachings of his mentor and includes Rasheeda, so that she learns those teachings as well.
When Rasheed falls in love with Natalia, a Jewish woman, he is able to apply what he learned from the priest to his budding relationship. However, it is the 1940s, and relations between Arabs and Jews are tense. Before long, those tensions come to a breaking point. Natalia mysteriously disappears, and Rasheed and Rasheeda are chased out of Palestine to Beirut, Lebanon.
Years pass, and though Rasheed continues to miss his beloved Natalia, he gets word of a surprising visitor—someone he didn’t even know existed. Rasheed’s life is upended, but in the most wonderful way.
As the Dinar family expands and enters the 1970s, their convictions are tested. In a dramatic final scene, the family reunites and proves once again that the thin line separating people because of their differences is powerless against the strength of family, love, and loyalty.
Attracted by the historical aspect that I don’t know much about, and made all the more relevant by the forever present conflict between Palestine and Israel, I grabbed this book right up. I worried that it might be a little too literary and highbrow for me, but that was not the case. It’s a thoughtful story that spans a long period of time. I got to know the characters so so well, and I cared so much about all of them.
I was so impressed by the sparse, clear-cut language and how much it delivered. This book is like a long statement of fact. Descriptions, flowery language, metaphors, and all else like it are left behind. It was so refreshing! It’s a sharp insight into the minds of Rasheed, Rasheeda, and all else who are in their lives. It took a little adjusting to, because I have not read anything like that before, but I truly loved it. The story and characters were the focus more than the style of writing, and because of that, an incredible amount was able to be included in this little book.
I must say that in the second chapter, there’s a bit about sex that’s pretty voyeuristic although it’s intended more as learning than lechery. It turned me off but I kept reading since it was only chapter two, and I’m grateful I did. This does play an important role throughout the book, as women’s sexual pleasure and men’s ability to support that comes up repeatedly. Again, it’s not in a creepy way, more matter of fact. And hey, I’m all about women’s sexual pleasure! But still, it was jarring to start the book like that, so a heads up.
The ending was wonderfully done, and particularly because I absolutely did not expect it. To get through this, there is a lot of darkness, but a lot of light as well. Sometimes it was painful to read because I felt so deeply for their plight. Still, it’s a wonderful read and I definitely recommend it.
Thanks to the author and Goodreads for a free advanced copy! This is my honest review.