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The Flame Tree

Author: Richard Lewis
Genre: Children
Reviewed by Susan DiPlacido

583The Flame Tree is much more than a coming of age story. By focusing on a 12 year Christian, American boy living in the world's largest Muslim nation during the upheaval of 9/11, Richard Lewis sets up a potentially explosive situation.

Isaac Williams is the son of two doctors who work at a missionary hospital in Indonesia. An exceptionally bright boy, he considers Indonesia his home, and though he schools with other ex-pat children, his best friend is a local devout Muslim boy, Ismail. But things take an ominous turn in young Isaac's life when the Muslim church across the street from his home compound takes a decidedly extremist turn under a new Imam. People in the community who had previously welcomed Isaac become colder, he starts having nightmares about threatening crows, and he finds a new, hidden gate into the compound. Just as things hit a contentious note in his community, 9/11 explodes and his previously tranquil community rages with a full- blown riot.

With panic at a fever pitch, during a mandatory evacuation, complete with Marine escorts, the unthinkable happens and Isaac is taken hostage by the extremist group.

To say more would divulge intricate plot details that will leave not only young readers, but also adults, breathless as they get caught in the web of this riveting page-turner. Most importantly though, beyond the action and suspense of this novel lies a thoughtful examination of culture and faith. Lewis does an admirable job here of opening up a very foreign world while also carefully exploring facets of the Muslim and Christian faiths. From the description, it would be easy to assume that this novel pits Muslims against Christians, but remember, this is an extremist group, and care is taken to highlight Islamic beliefs in their less incendiary and dangerous forms. I dare say that this book is timely, and right now, an important read. Not only for youngsters struggling to understand, but also adults.

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August 11, 2004 in Children | Permalink

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