Blumenfeld is the rare journalist whose prose is as elegant and
engaging as her reporting is gritty and intrepid; one of the
outstanding and most original voices of her generation.
-- Tony Horwitz, Pulitzer prize-winning
author of Confederates in the Attic
and Baghdad Without a Map
I felt I was reading a deeply absorbing novel -- the
splendid eye for detail, the honesty, the beautiful portraits of
characters were absolutely wonderful and memorable.
-- Jonathan Rosen, author of Eve's Apple and The Talmud and the Internet
This is a story about love, violence and obsession
unlike anything I have ever read. By turns humorous and harrowing,
always gripping, Blumenfeld's book describes how a sudden, violent act
reverberated for years within her family, shaping her own emotional life
in ways she barely suspected. It is a journey through hatred and despair
that leads, unexpectedly, to compassion and hope. Unforgettable and
-- Geraldine Brooks, author of The Wonder Years and Nine Parts of Desire, and former
Middle East correspondent for the Wall
Laura Blumenfeld has written a corker. Her take on
revenge is astonishing. Only the most deft of writers could produce a
book that is both a poignant and unflinching look at the price of
violence and a riotously funny and sometimes bizarre account of one
person's journey of self-revelation. It's about the secrets we keep
without knowing them and the kind of bravery it takes to break through
these deceptions to find love and understanding.
-- Kara Swisher, Boom Town columnist of
the Wall Street Journal and
author of AOL.COM
For years Laura Blumenfeld has been one of the
Washington Post's most creative and compelling prose stylists. Now she's
used her acute powers of observation and her narrative skills to tell an
intriguing tale of justice and revenge. Her book is far more than just
another account from the Middle East; it is a meditation on love and
hate and a personal journey. It's also a wonderful yarn, full of
tension, drama and conflict, brought to a surprising and satisfying
resolution by a great storyteller.
-- Glenn Frankel, Pulitzer-prize winning
author of Beyond The Promised Land and Rivonia's Children, former
Jerusalem bureau chief of The Washington Post
Revenge: A Story of Hope is more than
journalism, or investigative reporting, or a sweet memoir about divorce.
It's a strange and subtle journey into the heart of unrest, bitterness,
misunderstanding, family dynamics, blood feuds and the Middle East. The
book is an enormous reading treat -- gripping, gorgeously written,
funny, sad, mysterious. Laura Blumenfeld wins us over with her good
intentions, her vulnerability, her unerring sense of decency and need
for honesty. You come away loving her, and her crazy sweet mother, her
noble father, her wickedly snide girlfriend Rachel. I'm not sure how she
pulled it off, but she did. Revenge is a brave and exciting book
for a journalist to have written -- and bound to be controversial.
-- Martha Sherrill, author of The Buddha from Brooklyn
Some of the reviews and articles on Revenge: A
Story of Hope
March 26, 2003
BY TOM FOREMAN
Laura Blumenfeld is not a killer; yet she has stalked a man with revenge in
her heart and a trace of murder on her mind. Laura's story tracks like a spy
thriller through the twisting alleys of the Middle East and the pages of her
acclaimed book Revenge: A Story of Hope.
Walking into the National Geographic Channel TV studio where I host the Inside Base Camp show, the Washington Post reporter is small, pretty,
with an easy smile and intelligent eyes. It is difficult to imagine that for
months she lived a double life. To her family, Laura was a loving daughter
just out of Harvard embarking on a promising career. On the streets of
Jerusalem, she was a young woman obsessed with the man who tried to kill her
(To read this review in its entirety, go to National Geographic.com.)
Los Angeles Times
April 12, 2002
BY LOUISE STEINMAN
"Who would want to hurt him?" Laura Blumenfeld used to
wonder, standing at the exact spot in the Jerusalem market where, in
1986, her father was shot and wounded by a Palestinian terrorist. After
the shooting, Blumenfeld, reporting from Israel for the Washington Post, was repeatedly
drawn to that same place and to that same question. Then the moment
would pass, and she'd "go on writing about other people's lives."
On one particular day, however, standing again at the
scene of the crime, she noticed a single word -- REVENGE --
spray-painted in black on a stone archway. At that moment, an idea
lodged in her mind with unabating intensity: "What if I could really
track down the shooter?"
Now, as the headlines bring their sad daily quota of
deadly suicide bombings and retaliatory reprisals in the
Israeli-Palestinian standoff, Blumenfeld's new book -- Revenge: A
Story of Hope -- offers a welcome antidote. Part memoir, part
cultural history of revenge, the book chronicles her obsession with her
father's shooting, the actions she undertook to avenge it and the
surprising results of what the New York Times called her "one-woman
espionage plot." Blumenfeld's ambition was large and her intentions
numerous: She wanted to explore the origins of revenge, its rules, its
motivations. Why do some people need to get even and others don't?
(To read this review in its entirety, go to www.latimes.com.)
April 5, 2002
BY SUZY HANSEN
Twelve years after the shooting [of her American rabbi
father by a Palestinian terrorist], Laura Blumenfeld still wanted
revenge‹a strange kind of revenge not easy to distinguish from
In light of the violence engulfing the Middle East
right now, it would not have been surprising if Blumenfeld had simply
wanted to repay harm with harm -- or if she had wanted to do so for
religious or political reasons. The Blumenfelds are Jewish and Omar
Khatib is Palestinian. But one of the most striking and significant
things about Revenge is that Blumenfeld's quest had nothing to do
with politics. Her own politics are clearly dovish: In a letter she
sends to Omar, Blumenfeld writes, "[My father] supports and likes the
Palestinians. He taught this to his children ... this is what he said:
He thinks you have been wronged by Israel in your life. He believes you
went through hell, as did your brother, Imad, and your parents ... He
respects your ideology and does not want to argue politics."
To Blumenfeld, then, it wasn't a "Palestinian
terrorist" who shot her Jewish father -- it was a human being who shot
her "daddy." Her longing to take revenge -- if you can call it that --
was not as a Jew, but as a daughter. It's obvious how important this
idea is to Blumenfeld; a good chunk of the book describes her
relationship with her divorced parents and the painful fracturing of her
family. In her exploration of revenge, Blumenfeld delivers a rich
portrait of a thoughtful, conflicted and curious avenger.
Her quest is both morally complex and dauntingly
(To read this review in its entirety, go to www.salon.com.)
April 7, 2002
BY AMY WALDMAN
Blumenfeld's cluelessness about how to obtain
satisfaction for the wrong done is eloquently expressed throughout this
unusual book. At the same time she's trying to figure out how to extract
her pound of flesh, she's grappling with the other large event of her
life during that long-ago year, her parents' divorce. The book's
flawlessly written climax, a scene in which she reveals her identity to
the gunman and his family, is also the moment at which she's able to
connect the dots regarding her own family split, paving the way for her
to move forward.
This is not a perfect book, which is a big part of why
it's a great book. There's Blumenfeld's fine eye for detail and easy
prose. The sections where she is questioning religious and civil
authorities on revenge are, by far, the most confident. Much more
difficult are the passages where she grapples with her personal
Throughout, Blumenfeld is unstintingly honest with
herself. This is uncharted territory, and Blumenfeld does a marvelous
job of conveying the ambiguity of her situation -- caught between the
roles of objective reporter and wronged daughter. She never lets go of
the search for truth, even when afraid. That's the stuff of which true
courage and the raw material for great writing is made.
April 2002 issue
BY CATHLEEN MEDWICK
Maintaining her dual identity was painful. As she
smiled and looked at family pictures, she wrestled with her anger. Yet
she came to like these people, who couldn't do enough for her. They
helped her exchange letters with the shooter, who explained that the
attacked was nothing personal. To her it was nothing but personal.
During the year they corresponded she kept her identity secret, and
little by little she came to understand the man behind the gun. At last,
in a courtroom appearance, she astonished everyone with her own
Talking about her search for revenge, Laura still
seems surprised. "I'm not Arnold Schwarzenegger. I am a short,
fluffy-haired woman with no arm muscles, and I was feeling something
that we all consider to be very macho. So what was I going to do with
March 25, 2002
BY JANET MASLIN
In 1986 a New York rabbi named David Blumenfeld was
shot in Jerusalem, one of several tourists attacked by the Abu Musa
gang, a rebel faction of the P.L.O. There are two positive aspects to
this event. First, the bullet only grazed his head, and he survived the
shooting thanks to miraculously good luck. Second, his daughter, an
enterprising feature writer for The Washington Post, decided to make
sense of this crime.
Laura Blumenfeld, wrote a poem at the time of the
shooting, promising to wreak vengeance on her father's assailant. Now,
at considerably greater length and with formidable energy, she describes
where that promise led. Revenge is her account of traveling the
world to explore how retribution works in different societies. On a more
personal basis, it also describes her one-woman espionage plot to
discover the secrets of the would-be killer.
Revenge tells how she initially approached the
relatives of Omar Khatib as a reporter, asking questions 12 years after
the shooting. She used her married name and deliberately avoided
identifying herself as David Blumenfeld's daughter. The Khatibs recalled
the shooting with a casualness that infuriated her, but she worked hard
at keeping up her masquerade.
"We all started to chuckle at the comic scene," she
reports. "One bullet, a cowering Jew, the gun pinwheeling out of reach.
The mother, laughing, smacked my thigh."
In her travels, Ms. Blumenfeld discovered that had the
event occurred in Iran, her father's grievance would have been worth
one-ninth of one camel. And had he been murdered, it would have been her
prerogative to impose the death penalty on his killer. In Albania her
father would be entitled to 50 sheep and one-fourth of an ox, and the
reigning revenge philosophy rejects turning the other cheek. Instead, it
is "Don't hit my cheek because I'll kill you." The one constant about
revenge that she discovered was of course its stubbornness. Wherever
she went, the cycles of attack and retaliation seemed to have no end.
Especially in its view of Israeli-Arab relations, her book describes
such uncompromising attitudes that there would seem to be no possible
justice. And yet this book is subtitled "A Story of Hope." The
essential question Ms. Blumenfeld asks is how to escape revenge's
futility. In her own case, there really was a way out, leading all the
way to a climactic courtroom moment that is pure Hollywood, tears and
(To read this review in its entirety, go to www.nytimes.com.)
March 23, 2002
BY ROBERT RUBY
"How many times had I pictured the scene?" Laura
Blumenfeld writes, imagining a confrontation with the shooter. "I would
reach out through the darkness and grab his collar. I would shake him so
hard, he would become someone else. All I knew was that a finger out
there somewhere had pulled the trigger on my father. What if I actually
tracked him down?"
The unexpected form her vengeance takes and her
investigation of all the sour flavors of revenge make her account unlike
any other reportage from the Middle East.
I briefly knew (and worked with) the author in Israel
a decade ago, and Blumenfeld later became a staff writer for The
Washington Post. She told virtually no one about the shooting and her
search for the gunman, including the many people she interviewed about
revenge. She did not reveal that her questions were attempts get closer
to the shooter.
And that is one of the unsettling paradoxes of the
book. Wanting to confront Omar Khatib, she feared what he might do if he
knew her identity. The closer she comes, the greater the fear, the
greater the dissembling. She relied on a "precariously truthful way"
that significantly colors her actions, twisting the outcome of her
search in ways she could not have foreseen.
She is brave as both a daughter and writer. I know of
no other book that delves as intimately into an extended Palestinian
family, though she all the while acknowledges that the Khatibs remain
The Other. Her secretiveness about her real goal means that until almost
the last moment she remains just Laura to them. Not a Jew, not a
This is a serious, stirring book posing questions
tragically relevant for Israelis and Palestinians. Which will it be: An
eye for an eye, or turn the other cheek? And how do you take that eye?
And how can you turn?
(To read this review in its entirety, go to www.baltimoresun.com.)
March 31, 2002
BY SAMUEL G. FREEDMAN
Here, clearly, are the makings of an intrinsically
dramatic narrative, one almost mythic in its contours. Beyond her role
as daughter, Blumenfeld brings numerous skills to the task. A reporter
for The Washington Post, she speaks both Hebrew and Arabic, holds a
master's degree in international affairs, and worked in the past as a
volunteer in the West Bank, bringing together Israeli and Palestinian
children to lay the foundations for peace.
The essence of the book concerns Blumenfeld's pursuit
of Khatib, and it makes for fascinating reading in some unexpected ways.
Once Blumenfeld finds the assailant's name in Israeli court records, she
sets about locating his extended family, which lives in the village of
Kalandia, perhaps a dozen miles from her apartment in Jerusalem. She
travels there one blistering afternoon in July 1998 to ask Khatib's
relatives about the crime.
Then, and for nearly a year afterward, Blumenfeld
presents herself simply as Laura, or by her married surname, Weiss.
Whether interviewing the Khatib family in person or, later, carrying on
a surreptitious correspondence with Omar Khatib himself as he serves a
13-year sentence, Blumenfeld pretends to function purely as a journalist
interested in hearing about the shooting, and by extension about the
Palestinian experience under Israeli occupation. Throughout these
encounters, the pages of Revenge virtually quiver with the
tension of whether Blumenfeld will be unmasked. It will not surprise me
if some scold like Janet Malcolm cites Blumenfeld's deception as one
more bill of indictment against journalism itself. But that would
entirely miss the point.
Unlike Joe McGinniss sweet-talking the accused
murderer Jeffrey McDonald, or Malcolm herself winning the trust of
psychoanalyst Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson the better to defenestrate him,
Blumenfeld always acknowledges her duplicity and her moral discomfort
with it. Besides, more than anything, she is playing Cyrano de Bergerac
to Khatib's Roxanne, speaking through an artifice because her actual
self, a Jew who is the victim's daughter, would never receive a fair
These interplays plumb the hatred and rationalization
that underlined the attempted murder. In their first meeting with
Blumenfeld, the Khatib family members offer her orange soda and recall
the shooting victim as "some Jew" who was probably "a Mossad agent."
Omar Khatib's older brother Saed tells Blumenfeld, "We were all with him
politically. We all thought it was worth it--his duty to get back all
the cities taken by the Jews."
Even as Omar Khatib writes to Blumenfeld of his
interest in Dostoyevsky, his memory of the ocean and the prospects for
negotiated peace, he says of the shooting, "What I've done is not
personal. You have to see it as part of our leagal [sic] military
conduct against the occupation." He goes on to express the hope that
even his victim "could understand the reasons behind my act."
Revenge takes us into the parts of the
Palestinian psyche that made peace in 1993 and launched war in 2000.
(To read this review in its entirety, go to www.washingtonpost.com.)
March 4, 2002
The climax is astonishingly powerful, a masterfully
rendered scene, crackling with the intensity of which great,
life-changing drama is made.
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