Under The Almond Tree, written by Laura McVeigh, is a fictional story which at times seems so real that its amazing the writer didn’t live some of these experiences herself. The description and emotion that she is able to capture made me cry and feel physically sick at times.
The book follows Samar, a fifteen year old who was born in Kabul and has fled due to war and torture. Samar’s narrative is told on the trans-Siberian train as she narrates how she came to be there, and the story of her family. Samar has experienced fleeing for her life from Kabul, refugee camps, natural disaster and loss within her family. This is all told through her eyes and her hopes, and is horrific but also beautiful and full of resilience and dreams. The character of Samar is beautifully constructed, as are each of her siblings and her parents. Each character is well developed and grows throughout the narrative in both reality and dream. Napolean, the train conductor, offers so much hope and support to not just Samar, but the whole story.
Under the Almond Tree is not for the faint hearted, as it covers a range of tragedies and is gruesome and confronting in parts. But it is also a great novel that is built on so much of what is happening in today’s world for families like Samar’s. I loved this book and it’s my favourite read so far this year.