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Laura 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 exhilarating.
-- Geraldine Brooks, author of The Wonder Years and Nine Parts of Desire, and former Middle East correspondent for the Wall Street Journal.

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

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 father.

(To read this review in its entirety, go to National

The Los Angeles Times
April 12, 2002

"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
April 5, 2002

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 forgiveness.

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 ambitious.

(To read this review in its entirety, go to

The Milwaukee Journal
April 7, 2002

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 situation.

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.

O: The Oprah Magazine
April 2002 issue

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 humanity.

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 that feeling?"

The New York Times
March 25, 2002

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 all.

(To read this review in its entirety, go to

The Baltimore Sun
March 23, 2002

"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 victim's daughter.

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

The Washington Post
March 31, 2002

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 hearing.

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

Publisher's Weekly
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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