Struggling to adapt to life on a border kibbutz in Israel, Lesley reluctantly trades in her past world of trendy clothes and school popularity for manual work, unisex sleeping quarters, and a devastating war. Reissue. SLJ. PW.
The book is set in 1968. Lesley is a typical teenager. She's always trendily dressed, always popular, always the envied one. Then her father announces that the entire family is going to emigrate to Israel. She cries, pleads, threatens, but soon enough they arrive on a border kibbutz. Lesley doesn't speak Hebrew, can't do much in the way of chores, and is at first treated like anathema by her peers. Meanwhile, the conflict between Israel and Jordan escalates. Across the River Jordan, surprisingly lacking in width or depth, she observes over time a young boy whose loneliness reminds her of herself. Despite knowing better, Lesley cannot imagine him an enemy. When war breaks out, the world of the kibbutz seems terribly fragile, but Lesley finds herself fighting as desperately as her neighbors to hold on.
The relationship between Lesley and Mustapha, however brief, is one of the most unforgettable I've ever read about. The final scene of the book still haunts me. I reread it at least once a year.
I have always loved this book, and it speaks both to young people and adults. However, in reading the revised version (written post-Indian in the Cupboard), I was disappointed by some of the changes. I think that the book was updated politically to reflect the realities of the 1990's: and I suppose rightly so (there's more understanding now of the Arabs) however: it would have been more authentic, and retained more of its fire, had it been reissued in its original form as written in the early 1970's, not long after the events portrayed in the book occurred.