Strangers with the Same Dream, by Alison Pick, is the story of a group of Jewish idealists struggling to found a kibbutz in harsh conditions in 1920s Palestine.
Alison Pick writes with masterful skill and captures the hopes, delusions and horrors of pioneer settlement life with shocking clarity.
I nearly put the book down and gave up several times. The bleak landscape coupled with the relentlessly devastating events and appalling main characters made it very difficult to continue.
I continued to the end thanks to my own curiosity and hope, a fascinating mirroring of the themes of the novel itself.
Written almost entirely in third person, there are occasional interjections from a first person narrator. I wanted to know who this narrator was and why they were singled out. So I kept reading.
David and Hannah, the lead couple of the kibbutz, are really quite awful human beings who believe themselves to be working toward a common good. I could see glimmers of good in both of them and hoped these would prevail in the end. And so I kept reading.
The hypocrisies were numerous and startling.
The kibbutz was to be secular, communal and equal. And yet, religious rituals were observed (minus God), individual non-physical needs were ignored and equality was observed only as far as it suited the kibbutz leaders. Ida and Hannah are both irritated that they are almost immediately assigned ‘women’s work’ – laundry, cooking and child-minding – rather than be allowed to work the land alongside the men.
The founders of the kibbutz are Jewish men and women escaping persecution in their home countries. And yet, they arrived in this new land intent on taking it from its existing Arab inhabitants by force.
The purpose of founding the kibbutz is to create a new future for the Jewish people. And yet, the first child of the settlement is neglected beyond belief, including by Hannah and David, her own parents. I spent most of the book wanting to reach in and pull out little Ruth – around 5 or 6 years old – and take her home with me so she could be looked after properly.
If you’re looking for an uplifting book with a happy ending, this is not the book for you.
If you’re looking for a lens through which to see our modern world more clearly, Strangers with the Same Dream will certainly bring our society’s failings into sharp focus.
About the Author
Alison Pick is the author of FAR TO GO, longlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize, and winner of the Canadian Jewish Book Award for fiction; and a memoir, BETWEEN GODS, which was shortlisted for the Wingate Prize. She is also the author of two collections of poetry, and a novel, THE SWEET EDGE , all of which were published to wide acclaim. She lives in Toronto, Canada.
Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of review. This post contains affiliate links.