Claude Campbell, a former English professor at the City University of New York, lives in Kodak, Tennessee, near Knoxville.
A retired goat herder acquires an unexpected adviser in Campbell's debut, in which the author grapples with the gnarly web of conflict in the Middle East with mixed results. Abou Ben Adhem is the Arab shepherd who is awakened one night by a dumpy-looking, wisecracking angel named Cohen, who dazzles the uneducated peasant with a series of historic, religious and anthropological revelations. Cohen also chips in with some advice about a family dilemma that begins when Abou is thrown out of his home by his son-in-law Yasser, a petty, greedy man whose interest in Abou lies mostly in pocketing his inheritance. What follows is a battle between the two men, as Yasser begins beating his wife, Sophia, and spreading vile rumors about his father-in-law. Abou's frustration reaches the boiling point when he moves his tent into the village and starts teaching children about shepherding, only to see the program taken over by Hamas, the anti-Israeli terrorist organization. That takeover comes with tragic consequences during the novel's climax, which involves an Israeli retaliation attack. While some may find problematic the idea of a divine entity delivering decidedly Western advice to an Arab, Campbell counters with humor, as when a "horrified" Abou complains, "I don't want a Jewish angel." The story of Abou's plight is an illuminating if somewhat oversimplified yarn about the way politics are entangled with family life in the Middle East. Author appearances in Tennessee and New York. (Mar. 1) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
A curious fantasy [that] mingles metaphysics and grim reality. * Kirkus *
Will intrigue and entrance...a powerful and readable tale. -- Pat MacEnulty * South Florida Sun-Sentinel, (Ft. Lauderdale) *
The chapters...are filled with evocative prose and solid storytelling -- John Green * Booklist *
Whimsical fable...ironic foot for thought in the meeting of a Palestinian pacifist and an agnostic angel. * The Boston Globe *
An original, ironic, humorous, and sometimes tragic novel of conflict in the Gaza Strip....A moving, powerful, and recommended book. * Midwest Book Review *
Campbell's debut offers a provocative look at religion and war. For all collections. -- Melanie Duncan * Library Journal *
A refreshing, humble and certainly welcomed insight into the Middle East...Truly heart warming, and a welcome song to bleak times all across the world. * Rapport Magazine *
Humorous and insightful -- Adam Ismail * New Strait Times, (Malaysia) *
...a gentle masterpiece... -- William Demby, author of Battlecreek and Catacombs
So original...provacative...stylish. -- Frank McCourt
Whimsical, bittersweet...A fascinating picture of a Muslim community. * Boston Herald *
Abou Ben Adhem was once blessed with a visit from an angel. Twenty years later, he lives in a shepherd's tent near his daughter's family on the Gaza Strip as relations between Palestinians and Jews deteriorate rapidly. His son-in-law wants to get rid of him, his daughter and his grandson adore him, and his friends listen and offer support. One night, his prayers are answered, and again an angel appears to counsel him a Jewish angel named Cohen. Abou is shocked: a Jewish angel? Hasn't he been devout in his prayers to Allah? Isn't he still at the top of the list of those who love the Lord? As Abou struggles with nightly visitations from Cohen, the two discuss the escalating war, family troubles, and faith. When tragedy strikes, Abou learns that the friendliest face can hide the deadliest enemy, while an enemy can show a rare act of kindness. Campbell's debut offers a provocative look at religion and war. For all collections. Melanie Duncan, Washington Memorial Lib., Macon, GA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.