Smith, Timothy Jay. “A Vision of Angels”, Owl Canyon Press, 2013.
Terror in Jerusalem
One of the most flattering aspects about being a reviewer is when an author I reviewed previously lets me know that he has a new book out and asks me to review it. I am lucky in that I often get requests like that. When Timothy Smith told me basically what his new book, “A Vision of Angels” was about, I jumped at the chance to read and review it especially because it is set in Jerusalem, Israel, a place I called home for many years.
The plot is set around a terrorist threat on Easter Sunday that is the catalyst for a series of events that bring the lives of four characters together—an American journalist, an Israeli war hero, a Palestinian farmer and an Arab Christian grocer. Jakov Levy is a major in the Israel Defense Forces and his job allows him to call for the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip to be closed. He had received an alert to a planned suicide bombing. Closing the Gaza Strip was a necessary precaution but it meant that farmers like Amin Mousa cannot get his produce to market and therefore head to dump what he was taking to sell. When American journalist, David Kessler, saw this story on the news, he smelled a story and heads for Gaza to get the story.
To make the entire situation even more intense, Hamas is plotting to use the journalist’s car as a way to smuggle a bomb and then get it when he returns but as happens, Kessler was detoured on the way home. Realizing they cannot win, a Hamas member confesses and Israeli agents are off to find Kessler before the terrorists do.
There have been many attempts by writers who have tried to use the Israel/Palestine situation as a setting for their work but they seldom have come across as feeling true. The Israel situation is so complex that unless someone is familiar with the country, it is very difficult to write about it and here is where I felt Smith’s familiarity makes this novel ring true. Smith wrote the novel from different points of view. Even more amazing is that all points of view are equally represented. Something else that is so important; it is really important to understand the history of the area because so much of what has happened and is happening is a result of the history. Using the characters to relay the history is a stroke of brilliance. This is really this novel’s strong point. We empathize with the characters as we read and it is through them that we see and understand what is transpiring in the book. Smith does not take sides yet he is able to show us how futile the situation has become.
Seeing the conflict though the eyes of people who live in Israel helps us to begin to understand the complicated situation that really never seems to get any better. The terror we read of is that much more terrible when we see it through human eyes. Smith has the talent and the knowledge to deal with all sides and not take show favoritism to any of them. To bring the plot closer to home, we see how lives are changed and come together as a result of a planned bombing. By giving the situation a human face we understand it better although we will never really understand it all. Because the plot deals with the concept of war, it is really hard to empathize with the characters. Ultimately this is a story about how conflict can cause individuals to lose track of what is going on. Here the conflict tears people apart and at the same time it brings them together. To understand how this works, you will have to read the book. We really have here the story of reconciliation and love but only after tragedy changes the lives of the characters.