Books: Ripped from the Headlines

In a journalist's debut novel, Arab-Israeli discord is both achingly personal and inescapably political

The opening scenes of Amy Wilentz's first novel, Martyrs' Crossing (Simon & Schuster; 311 pages; $24), seem transcribed from this morning's Middle East bulletins. In response to terrorist bombings in Jerusalem, Israel has barred West Bank Palestinians from entering the city. One rainy evening Marina Hajimi approaches the Shuhada checkpoint on the Ramallah road with her young son Ibrahim. He is suffering an asthma attack, and his Palestinian doctor has told her to get him quickly to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. The Israeli army lieutenant in charge, Ari Doron, sees that the boy is in bad shape and frantically telephones higher-ups...

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