Gabriella Ambrosio’s first novel, Before We Say Goodbye, paints an unforgettable picture of modern-day Jerusalem in all its war-worn reality, as seen through the eyes of two teenage girls of opposing sides: Myriam, an Israeli Jew who is mourning the loss of her best friend, and Dima, a Palestinian Arab who feels compelled to avenge the suffering of her people. Both girls find themselves lost and struggling for meaning in a world that is crumbling apart at the wake of so much senseless violence.
This book is a challenging read for many reasons – the pulse-quickening pace and sense of chaos, the litany of unusual Arab and Jewish names, the complex intricate language – but the most difficult thing about Before We Say Goodbye is the harsh reality it portrays with brutal honesty. The events and circumstances described are disturbingly truthful, emphasised by the fact that the book is inspired by the true story of two teenage girls. The author also effectively allows the reader to understand the complicated, conflicting and confusing thoughts of all those affected by such violence, and in doing so manages to create a refreshingly balanced account of the tragedy.Before We Say Goodbye brings us far beyond propaganda and news items on the violence in the Middle East to a place of understanding and empathy, which is much needed, and not to be shied away from, by adults and teenagers alike.