ABOU AND THE ANGEL COHEN

Claude Campbell, Author . Bridge Works $23.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-882593-51-4

A retired goat herder acquires an unexpected adviser in Campbell's debut, in which the author grapples with the gnarly web of conflict in the Middle East with mixed results. Abou Ben Adhem is the Arab shepherd who is awakened one night by a dumpy-looking, wisecracking angel named Cohen, who dazzles the uneducated peasant with a series of historic, religious and anthropological revelations. Cohen also chips in with some advice about a family dilemma that begins when Abou is thrown out of his home by his son-in-law Yasser, a petty, greedy man whose interest in Abou lies mostly in pocketing his inheritance. What follows is a battle between the two men, as Yasser begins beating his wife, Sophia, and spreading vile rumors about his father-in-law. Abou's frustration reaches the boiling point when he moves his tent into the village and starts teaching children about shepherding, only to see the program taken over by Hamas, the anti-Israeli terrorist organization. That takeover comes with tragic consequences during the novel's climax, which involves an Israeli retaliation attack. While some may find problematic the idea of a divine entity delivering decidedly Western advice to an Arab, Campbell counters with humor, as when a "horrified" Abou complains, "I don't want a Jewish angel." The story of Abou's plight is an illuminating if somewhat oversimplified yarn about the way politics are entangled with family life in the Middle East. Author appearances in Tennessee and New York. (Mar. 1)

Reviewed on: 01/07/2002
Release date: 12/01/2001
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