My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This little book (just 157 pages) is not for the faint of heart and is not a light read. It spans the life of Amed, who makes the horrible choice to swap places with his brother as a child, rather than to suicide bomb a target in revenge for the death of his grandparents. Sweeping across continents and across time periods in Amed’s life, this book feels like an epic journey of a tortured soul. He is constantly visited by the ghosts of his past and they stir Amed to flee rather than deal with his crisis of conscience. Not until the ending, does Tremblay provide a Deus ex Machina in the form of a tortured play where Amed can finally bare all in a giant cathartic finale.
I read this book as part of the Ontario Library Association’s White Pine program. The translation is awkward feeling and the ending is too abrupt and yet I would put this book in the canon alongside Elie Wiesel, Night for the way it has perfectly captured the zeitgeist of our war-torn era and the human migration that is a result of it. Small but mighty, The Orange Grove spoke to me on many levels. In the secondary school classroom, it would ignite all sorts of entry-level conversation on difficult topics.