A Vision of Angels
As any historian knows, much of history's great events, indeed of life itself, contain elements of pure random luck. whether good or bad. One example: Washington's luck in having a blinding storm that hid the American rebels from the British soldiers the night they crossed the Delaware. Perhaps the more religious would call it fate, kismet or the hand of God or Allah, but in Timothy Jay Smith's second novel, ""A Vision of Angels," only dumb rotten luck comes to mind.
"A Vision of Angels" is a moving page-turner about the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its devastating effects on four families. A high-ranking Israeli officer gets wind of a possible terrorist plot and closes the Israeli-Gaza border which sets off a chain of events that leads to an American photo-journalist randomly giving a ride to, and bedding, an Israeli soldier and winding up in jail accused of being a terrorist. In the interim, his Arab-Christian grocer friend, to whom he also gave a ride (after the Israeli soldier), just happened to have stepped on a nail which made him stumble when he was getting out of the car at the behest of other Israeli soldiers which in turn caused him to get shot in the head and die.
Of course all this "randomness" has everything to do with Smith's deft story line, which, when combined with his fast-paced prose, is what makes this such an intriguing, good read. Still, as the story unfolds, the reader can't help but ponder about the seemingly accidental events that cause a person to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Ultimately, this meaninglessness is what informs Smith's book -- the pointlessness of war. Through his characters, Smith shows the reader the many sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: David, the gay half-Jewish American journalist; Issa, his Arab-Christian grocer friend; Amin, a Palestinian farmer; Hakem, a Hamas militant; Noam, a militant Israeli settler, and Jakov, an Israeli war hero. Smith flushes their stories out empathetically and makes clear their motivations.
Despite the tragedies that befall these characters, their friends and families, "A Vision of Angels" is a story about reconciliation and hope. And yet, like the pictures David so carefully shoots, these characters ultimately portray the senseless horrors that make up this ancient conflict and leave the reader feeling it's not ending anytime soon.
"A Vision of Angels"
Timothy Jay Smith
Owl Canyon Press