In February 2000, Richard Zimler went to Australia for the Perth Writers' Festival. While he was there, he met a talented dancer from a Brazilian mime and dance troupe. The tragic step she would take the next day would change his life forever, and launch him into an obsessive, three-year investigation of her past. He discovers a childhood lived at a time of peaceful tolerance between neighbouring Arabs and Jews in the old districts of Haifa. As this tranquillity becomes fragile, and despite their ethnic and religious differences, two particular girls - one Palestinian one Israeli - forge a bond of sisterhood strong enough to last a lifetime.
Zimler's investigations lead him deeper and deeper into a web of illusions, cruelty and deceit - and finally to September 11, 2001, when the tragedy he witnessed in Perth is set in the starkest of political contexts.
Part memoir and part thriller, The Search for Sana blurs the conventional boundaries between fact and fiction as it takes an intimate look at a lifelong friendship, and the inception of an unthinkable crime.
Comment: I got this book at my local library mostly because I have enjoyed the previous books I've read by the author and this one wasn't so big I couldn't manage to add it to my monthly lists. As always, it was like a treat to enjoy this book.
This is a book narrated in the first person by the author himself about how he once met a woman in Australia and a brief encounter is the starting point to a mystery he needs to solve, if only for his piece of mind. The problem is that every new tidbit found about the woman brings the author deeper into a situation he couldn't ever imagine. Propelled by the fact he feels he "owes" her memory a semblance of truth, he will try to uncover why she must have felt the need to jump to her death and what he finds is quite shocking.
I must say that it's slightly complicated to imagine this as a real life event, such as the author describes his research and travels to find out more about Sana, the woman he met and who killed herself the day after that random meeting. Some things seem too far fetched, too unlikely and unrealistic when one thinks about the known events from those years but to be able to trust the author and believe his words...then this is truly surprising.
Richard Zimler is a very talented writer, in my opinion, and the way he writes about Sana's life, the sort of things she went through... I can only imagine it was not easy for him to write this in a way that would be both approachable for the reader but efficient at the same time, meaning, he had to give enough clues for this to make sense and interest for the readers while still maintaining his own "voice" and perspective of the whole thing. I guess this is probably why it can also be difficult to see this in the way that (I assume) is the one the author intended: sometimes it feels he's too close to everything he describes, he is part of the pot after all. On one hand this can also mean the content can look a bit too unlikely and maybe part of the aim is lost.
I'm not saying this is wrong and I can't honestly think of a way to do this much better or with the "correct" approach, except in a non fiction perhaps, but it's the vibe I got sometimes.
At the core of this novel the main theme could be summarized in one word, I'd say. Unfairness.
The conflict at the base of all this, the terrible fight between Israelis and Palestine, is at the same time a subject the world needs to solve but also a situation that has gotten out of control too quickly. Looking through the outside, it always seems the solution could be so easy if only presidents and people in power were able to see it.
It just seems to unfair how so many people suffer because of a situation that should have never gotten to the point where it is today and in this book we often see described scenes of how low human beings can get thinking they have reason behind them. I guess this is part of the reason the book can feel as strong as it is, because it touches an issue still happening in the world for everyone to see and who knows about all the individual problems we never hear about but are right now touching and influencing people's lives?
When I finished the last pages of the book, I must say I was left a bit shocked. This can be easily read as fiction but to imagine it's true and that part of what we read here is just a little detail among a bigger master plan is truly appalling. But one thing is for certain, this story no matter how many little details I forget, will always remain with me somehow.