Five-year-old Milad Salama is excited for a school trip to a theme park on the outskirts of Jerusalem. On the way, his bus collides with a semitrailer. His father, Abed, gets word of the crash and rushes to the site. The scene is chaos—the children have been taken to different hospitals in Jerusalem and the West Bank; some are missing, others cannot be identified. Abed sets off on an odyssey to learn Milad's fate. It is every parent's worst nightmare, but for Abed it is compounded by the maze of physical, emotional, and bureaucratic obstacles he must navigate because he is Palestinian. He is on the wrong side of the separation wall, holds the wrong ID to pass the military checkpoints, and has the wrong papers to enter the city of Jerusalem. Abed's quest to find Milad is interwoven with the stories of a cast of Jewish and Palestinian characters whose lives and histories unexpectedly converge.
Magnificent ... The book does what all good stories should do – it unfolds both minutely and epically at the same time. It does not moralise, and yet it does not shirk its responsibility to knock our sense of comfortable balance all to hell ... Horrific ... The nature of injustice is such that we may not always see it in our own times, but history will hold us accountable. That’s why Thrall’s book, and those like it, are so important.
He weaves scenes from the aftermath of the accident with passages of historical context that explain the physical and legal boundaries that shape the lives of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem ... Thrall is one of the few writers who can combine vivid storytelling with in-depth analysis of the occupation without resorting to political throat-clearing, and throughout the book he maintains an unwavering, cleareyed focus on the broken political system ... At times, the book can feel repetitive, especially when Thrall restarts the day from various vantage points ... A grim narrative.
...a compelling work of nonfiction, a book that is by turns deeply affecting and, in its concluding chapters, as tense as a thriller. It takes a single episode and, by gathering the testimony of everyone involved, even tangentially, it constructs not only a meticulously detailed account of that one event but perhaps the clearest picture yet of the reality of daily life in the occupied territories ... The culprit, in other words, is the occupation, a 56-year political project that is exacting a terrible human cost. This is not news, but Thrall’s achievement is to make us see it – and feel its injustice – afresh.