Friday, May 11, 2018

Review: The Moment Before by Jason Makansi

Title: The Moment Before
Author: Jason Makansi
Year Published: 2018


Genre: Adult fiction
Pages: 312
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2018 Google Reading map)USA (IL, MO) and Syria and Lebanon

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Tricked by the two people closest to him, Elias Haddad leaves his beloved daughter, Cheryl Halia for what he believes is a short trip home to Syria to visit his dying father. Largely ignorant of Middle East politics, Elias is detained upon arrival in Damascus and conscripted into Assad's army, beginning a forty-year geopolitical odyssey from hell which culminates in his captivity in Guantanamo during America's post-9/11 War on Terror. 

In her search for her father, Cheryl meets John Veranda, an idealistic lawyer who risks his family's land, his marriage, and his aspirations for his hometown's future for a relationship with Cheryl neither are prepared for.


Stuart Eisenstat, a dedicated federal bureaucrat, thinks he's doing an old friend a favor when he picks John's hometown as the perfect site for relocating Guantanamo detainees only to come face to face with the personal cost of America's global ambitions.


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Review: When I was asked to read this book for the TLC tour, I was immediately drawn in knowing that I would read about Guantanamo, Syria, and small town America. If you've read this blog much, you'll know how much I LOVE reading books set outside the US. The prologue hooked me in and then it lost me in the next chapter when we started to know Cheryl and John.

But wait! There's more. I realized that I read those chapters at night when I was sleepy. Perhaps that wasn't fair. So I picked it up again mid-morning and things started to turn around. Amazing how our state of mind affects the way we feel about the books we read.

The intertwining stories mean that there is a lot going on in this book. Elias' life in the 1950s to 1970s in Syria and his early years in America, The 1980s cover the lives of Elias in the Middle East, Father Moody, and Elias' wife, Paula. The 1990s and 2000s is when Elias' daughter enters the picture as the main character. Her interactions with her family, her current friends, and her longing for her father are the most interesting of the book.

One thing that really threw me was all the back and forth in time. Each chapter quickly moved from present day America to the past in various locations. I found it a bit difficult to keep track of who was where and who knew what when. I wonder if it would have flowed better for me if it had been written in chronological order with fewer flashbacks.

I did care about some of the characters, Cheryl/Holly and Elias in particular. I wanted them to find one another, to renew their father-daughter love, and to find peace. I also liked Penndel and John, Holly's support system. They truly cared about her and her happiness and that's nice.

Of course, I found the portions of the story when Elias was in the Middle East interesting, with insights into the conflicts in the region over the years, the manipulation by Americans, Israelis, and Russians, and the clandestine work that all sides were doing. I could have done with more of that part of the story.

Challenges for which this counts:

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