4 out of 4 stars
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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.
Gates to Tangier
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