Martyrs’ Crossing tells a stunning story of love, fear, divided loyalties, ruined friendships, and personal sacrifice — against a backdrop of raging war in the Holy Land.
One rainy night at a Jerusalem checkpoint, Israeli Lieutenant Ari Doron is ordered to refuse passage to a young Palestinian mother and her sick boy. The incident leads to a series of riots, and Doron finds himself pulled into the bitter political aftermath as battles and bus bombs explode around him.
He is drawn to Marina, the boy’s American-born mother. And though she is on the other side of the bloody struggle, she finds herself thinking of Doron as “her soldier.” In another place, at another time, they might have been lovers, but here their story moves toward a tragic conclusion with the kind of inevitability that war imposes.
Marina’s father, an eminent Boston heart specialist and an outspoken Palestinian intellectual, is also sucked into the conflict he thought he had left behind long ago. Now, back in the streets of his youth, he must choose whether to support his old comrades as they manipulate his grandson’s story in an ugly propaganda campaign, or break with them and wreck his last remaining childhood friendship.
Caught in history’s terrible catastrophe, all three become pawns for larger, inescapable forces.
Martyrs’ Crossing is a poignant story of the ambiguities of war — of inarticulate longing and broken vows — set in the turbulence of Israel and the West Bank.
“Sophisticated and suspenseful…tautly written…Wilentz knows the world she writes about very well, and her descriptions have a solid specificity that lends authority to her fiction.”
– The New York Times Book Review
“At a closed Israeli checkpoint, Marina, a Palestinian mother, clutches her ailing boy, desperate for access to Jerusalem and its doctors. When a young Israeli soldier waits too long before deciding to disobey orders, a martyr is born. Thus begins a graceful, painful, illuminating novel of the Middle East….[Wilentz’s] prose tugs at the reader….The characters are magnetic….[This] is a very human tale of regrets, revenge, and the elusive nature of absolution.”
– Entertainment Weekly
“So precise, so startling, so unforgettable….These characters are all pawns of history and politics, but Wilentz makes them live.”
– Los Angeles Times
“Magnificent…Wilentz writes with a prose style reminiscent of The New Yorker’s highest ambitions: crystilline, pure, faultlessly communicative….Like the best documentaries, Martyrs’ Crossing allows us unprecedented access to a little-understood and often misrepresented part of the world.”
– Chicago Tribune
“A brilliantly researched meditation on the crisis in the Middle East…Martyrs’ Crossing matches Damascus Gate in the quality of research and the mass of intriguing characters – and yet it remains a lean thriller.”
– The New York Observer
“[An] affecting first novel…Wilentz has accomplished nearly the impossible….She has captured the corrosive moral shortcomings of Israeli and Palestinian leaders and the near helplessness of the people pulled into their wake – yet she renders virtually all of them with a deeply knowing sympathy.”
– The Baltimore Sun
“With intensity and skill, Amy Wilentz manages to show us the internal life of characters who are usually seen as journalistic subjects, those struggling in the complex and highly charged world of the Palestinians and Israelis. A deeply personal and tragic incident is at the center of this novel. The backdrop is one of political and social conflict, but the subject turns out to be the wider one of being human – of the difficulty of enduring loss and of trying to live by one’s beliefs when all the world seems to be against you.”
– Susan Minot, author of Lust & Other Stories