Joseph Schneider is raised as a Jewish-Cherokee in the Smoky mountains of North Carolina. Yes, you read that correctly … his mother is Cherokee and his father is Jewish. He has two older sisters who are twins. Oh, and he only has one eye.
He is fairly happy growing up with his family, indulging the tourists who flood into the area during tourist season, wanting to take photo’s of him and calling him a ‘cute Injun’. But as his sisters grow up and away from the family, cracks begin to show. Helen doesn’t come home as often as she used to, and when she does she seems different than before. And as for Kathryn, well, her choice of boyfriend is the cause of much dissent in the family. And through all the arguing that is erupting more and more, Joseph keeps hearing an undercurrent of something that he thinks is about him … something about ‘the truth’.
He’s shocked when ‘the truth’ is finally revealed. He’s not actually half-Jewish, half-Cherokee. He’s Palestinian; stolen by his mother from a young Palestinian girl when she worked as a nurse in Gaza. What will he do now? What will become of his dreams to grow up and become a chef on a ship and make his family proud? All he ever wanted to do was make his mother proud – but he wasn’t sure how he could do that, when he loved his mountain home so much that he didn’t actually want to leave it.
When his mother dies though, he is torn between the home he is so attached to, and fulfilling the last wishes of the woman who he never would have wanted to fail. And so he travels to the Middle East, to the Holy Land, to search for his birth mother and discover the story of roots he never even knew were his, for how do you know where you’re going if you never truly knew were you were from?
This is a rich and intensely evocative story, woven like a tapestry. Joseph’s character presumes nothing and even allows the telling of how he came to be a part of this family, to be told in his adopted mother’s voice. The writing creates a world in which he felt safe in familiar surroundings and draws the reader in, so that we see it through his eyes. It then pans out again when all that he knows shifts off its axis and becomes strange and fearful.
This is a 4-star read that I’d recommend to those looking for something with intense depth and quite a bit of emotional tension! Many thanks to Damp Pebbles Tours for inviting me. Take a look at what others are saying about At the Feet of Mothers …
Adnan Mahmutovic is a Swedish-Bosnian writer. He works at Stockholm University as a lecturer in literature and creative writing. His other major works include a novel Thinner than a Hair (2010), short story collection How to Fare Well and Stay Fair (2012), literary criticism Ways of Being Free (2012) and Future in Comics (2017), and creative writing pedagogy The Craft of Editing (2019).
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Published in paperback and digital formats on 4th May 2020 by Cinnamon Press.