Review by Elizabeth Abouhaidar.
I’ve never had a knack for politics or history. Reading books about those subjects was never an interest of mine, but somehow Suad Amiry’s Nothing to Lose but Your Life made me enter this world of hers with humor, drama, politics and history.
The novel was published in 2010, while the actual events discussed in the book took place in 2007. You can not only relate to the story and identify with the characters through the present political and soon to be historical events but also through its thorough description of Palestinian culture (which is very close to the Lebanese).
Amiry’s story is a reflection of her 18 hour ride with Murad, one of her cousins and Palestinian workers who need to go from Ramallah to the Israel town of Petah Tikva to find work. As Israelis are occupying the Palestinian territories, the lands they can no longer call home, Palestinians have to dodge bullets every day in order to provide for their families and stay alive. This is a big price to pay to work for their Jewish employers, that is, if they can find work in the first place. Amiry wanted to capture the real essence of their struggles and hardships being a Palestinian herself.
The book encompasses different themes throughout the story’s progression. One is a journey back home, which is in this case Jafa, where she lived as a child. Family is also an integral aspect discussed. Amiry has flashbacks of the conversations she had with her mother as a child. The morals that she remembers seem to be applied in a broader sense in her present. The novel is also dramatic, violence is yet another dominating subject matter as the title entails, after all, Palestinian workers and also Amiry have nothing to lose but their lives.
Patriotism is a rising topic in the story as these workers would rather face death than live anywhere else. Their home is where their lives are; their home is where their true destiny lies, and where they seem to find security even with the risks they take to keep it that way.
A memorable event I had while reading the book – as opposed to all these dramatic and somehow emotional themes – Amiry also put a smile on my face whenever she described her conversation with her aunt and most importantly mentions Beirut. Beirut is a symbol of joyful times (which is not necessarily a good event here). Amiry recalls that “[she] knew Beirut was always a source of fun for Arabs but [she] didn’t realize it was for the Israeli soldiers as well,” a time when she was detached and careless of her surroundings.
Family, love, and home are the things that kept me hooked and are the reason why I urge you to read this book. Amiry offers her reader much more than just a story over an 18 hour span; she offers endless stories from Palestine, which is both amusing and horrifying and keeps the reader hungry for more.