Book Review: The Lonely Tree by Yael Politis

The Lonely Tree imageTonia is single-minded in her desire to escape the hard life and insecurity on a kibbutz in Israel for the easy life she imagines waits for her in the United States. She even keeps a magazine photo of her ideal American home tacked up to her wall to remind herself of her dream.

Tonia’s parents had left their native Poland for Palestine in 1934 with their own dream of building a Jewish homeland. For years the family lived in cramped quarters with relatives while the dad, Joseph, worked to build a place they could all live together. Tonia’s brother and sister shared their parents’ dream, even as Tonia rejected it. But dark-eyed, dark-skinned Amos Amrani just may change Tonia’s mind about where she belongs.

The Lonely Tree by Yael Politis is a sweeping tale set against the Jewsish settlement of Palestine and the establishment of a Jewish state. The settlers experience deprivation, are subject to attack, and find out about loved ones left behind to perish during the Holocaust.

Tonia is stubborn like her father, and she often butts heads with him. But only she can decide if she truly wants to follow her own ideal of a safe life in America or fight for the Israeli state her parents and so many of her friends believe in. This book is a great one for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 15 and older to choose, particularly if they are interested in historical fiction and more specifically the history of the modern state of Israel.

Discussion topics include developing a cultural identity, living with the threat of attack, finding out what’s most important in your life, and moral obligations to the ones we love.

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