The Blue Between Sky and Water: When Darkness Illuminated the Stars

Because life is magical and gives us second chances that should be celebrated.

What a gorgeous cover!

When I was reading Susan Abulhawa’s The Blue Between Sky and Water at 3:30 AM (IST) today, I read that line over and over again, because I wanted to inhale, drink those words, and seal it in my memory forever. That little passage from Abulhawa’s magical creation will be a reminder to me — life is not that bad after all, for it offers second chances, and one should only be open enough to accept… celebrate it.

Those words seemed more powerful to me because it came from Nazmiyeh, the matriarch of Baraka family, whose mother and sister were killed by Israeli soldiers, while fleeing Beit Daras, a Palestinian village. Her brother had to live in different countries to make ends meet, and her enormous family never got be a family again in Gaza. Above all, Nazmiyeh herself was raped by the draconian Israeli soldiers. Such was the gravity of her sufferings.

Despite the predicaments, Nazmiyeh always, always had an invincible summer in her, and covered her family under her warmth, resilience, sense of humour (her dirty jokes were creative and hilarious), sassiness, optimism, and most important of all… hope. Nazmiyeh’s life was a testimony to the fact that war can destroy many dear things, but one’s will to keep fighting, keep moving is indestructible. Nazmiyeh is now my superhero. I will not be suprised if I draw strength from her during dark times. I heart her.

Besides Nazmiyeh, there were more women, who rose above the heap of dirt that Israel hurled at them — The beekeeper’s widow, who’s a talented cook, healer, and Nazmiyeh’s confidante. Alwan, Nazmiyeh’s daughter, and a young widow. Nur, Nazmiyeh’s niece from the US, a victim of sexual abuse, who lived most of her life in foster homes. They were all warriors; they were all hope in human forms.

While I wished I could hug every character in The Blue Between Sky and Water, I felt inexplicable connect with Mariam and Khaled, who belonged to this not-so-kind world, and to that blue between sky and water, where all time is now… Mariam, Nazmiyeh’s younger sister, who was killed by the Israeli soldiers, had stunning mismatched eyes, and spent her little life talking to a boy from another world. Although everybody thought that the boy was just an imaginary friend, many years after Mariam’s demise, he would come to this world as Alwan’s son, Nazmiyeh’s grandson. The little boy was stuck in his own body, with an ability to travel to the other realm, where his deceased family members gave him company.

If war and its aftermath were gray, Mariam’s and Khaled’s world was a striking, peaceful blue. It took several hours for me to retrieve myself from their tranquil dimension.

I loved Abulhawa’s lyrical writing. Her words were poignant, and argued for themselves that they could create such profound effect only because it came from her heart. I concurred.

Stories matter. We are composed of our stories. The human heart is made of the words we put in it. If someone ever says mean things to you, don’t let those words go into your heart, and be careful not to put mean words in other people’s hearts.

…I’m just made up of a bunch of pieces from different places and it’s all taped together and is gonna rip apart if I move too hard or talk too loud or something.

People still find the will to hope for miracles in this damned place.

She had no real anchors in the world, and so she was always on her way. On her way to herself. On her way to redemption. On her way to language. To something heavy enough to weigh her against the wind.

Dawn broke when I finished the book, and reluctantly closed it. In that silent, empty hour, I closed my eyes, and found myself sitting beside Nazmiyeh on the shores of Gaza, listening to her endless stories, her dirty jokes, enjoying the cheerful music made my men, watching women sway their hips to the rhythm, and capturing the surreal beauty of the sun that slipped behind the most bluish ocean.

After that, what a strenuous journey I had to make to come back to this part of the world!

We worried when the sun sank into the sky. Then darkness illuminated the stars, as only darkness can, and we lay in dirt, gazing at the splendor and immortality above.

I doodled Mariam. ❤

11 thoughts on “The Blue Between Sky and Water: When Darkness Illuminated the Stars

    1. Hi Di, I am glad you loved the blog. It’s a stunning novel, isn’t it? I am happy that Susan in going to be talking about the book in a lit fest here (Chennai, India) this month. I am looking forward to it. 🙂


  1. This book sounds wonderful, thanks for recommending it! I’ve read a bit about the Palestinian diasporic community in the US, but I really need to read some primary texts! Looks like the writing style is gorgeous as well, this definitely goes on my tbr! 🙂

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