Review by Tevis Scout -- Keys to Tetouan by Mois Benarroch

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Tevis Scout
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Review by Tevis Scout -- Keys to Tetouan by Mois Benarroch

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[Following is a volunteer review of "Keys to Tetouan" by Mois Benarroch.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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Official Review: Keys to Tetouan by Mois Benarroch

Keys to Tetouan is Book One of the Tetouan Trilogy, the story of a Jewish family, the Benzimra family, from their home in Tetouan, Morocco as they emigrate to Israel, Venezuela, France, the United States, wherever the winds take them. The story is compellingly written from many different voices through several generations. The main theme is exile – that a Jew is an exile no matter where they live. “Exile is my home.” The search for a home is relentless.

Tetouan is poor, so poor that the decision to build a school instead of buying shoes is seen as a wise decision. Without jobs, and subject to whichever current occupation dominates, many of the town are leaving in search of work and freedom. As a young man of 13 years, the main character is moving with his family to Israel as “everyone is a Jew there” according to his parents. “No where will the Jew be able to be his own master but in Israel.” There are those who leave with the keys to their homes, signifying a future return. There are those who do not take their keys.

Interspersed with historical accounts of previous generations’ emigrations, this book bounces from person to person, generation to generation, in vignettes that are stark and unrelenting in pursuit of home, family, freedom, and survival. As one person who lived in four countries on three continents, and was still an exile said, “Europe is Auschwitz. Always they try to prove that the Nazis were the exception, I beg to differ.” The historical accounts of Jewish exiles span centuries, and includes those who change their names to fit a new situation and those who remain firmly in their culture. As one gentleman said, “Even 500 years cannot erase one’s Jewish roots.”

The language of the personal stories is first person. It is helpful for the reader to have the foundational experience of having heard older Jewish people talk as the Yiddish has been translated into English but the rhythm of speech has been maintained – many of the sentences are 25-30 lines long, an extremely complex sentence structure which can be hard to follow. While reading, I often had to stop and get “that voice” in my head and read the paragraph out loud in a Jewish accent in order to follow the thought process.

This historical fiction, Keys to Tetouan, has not been fully edited. There were many instances where two words were typed together as one word without a space between. Such errors as “herd” for “heard” are often tripped over. Together with the long complex sentences and the narrative changes, this book is a slow read if one wants to understand, but the story itself is fascinating to read. My favorite quote, as it would apply to anyone and everyone, is “feeling good comes from the inside, not from the place you live in.” I would rate this book a 3 out of 4 stars as it needs some work to make it more readable but has a wonderful story that weaves through generations of a family. The personal insight as well as the historical settings are memorable.

Submitted by Tevis Scout

Keys to Tetouan
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