Peacekeeper’s Daughter: A Middle East Memoir
by Tanya Bellehumeur-Allatt
Published by Thistledown Press
Review by Toby A. Welch
$24.95 ISBN 9781771872164
The coming-of-age memoir Peacekeeper’s Daughter is impossible to put down once it sucks you in. Told from the perspective of a twelve-year-old Canadian Army brat who is dropped into the Lebanese Civil War in 1982-1983, we are immersed into the heart of the Palestinian crisis. Alongside Bellehumeur-Allatt, we travel from Yellowknife to Jerusalem to Tiberias, Israel, eventually landing in Beirut, Lebanon. The book wraps up by going full circle with a return to Canada. Bellehumeur-Allatt does a phenomenal job of making the musings of her preteen self interesting.
Bellehumeur-Allatt was able to vividly recount the details of her life back in the 1980s thanks to a gift. Just before leaving Canada to head to the Middle East, the mother of her best friend gave her a blank journal wrapped in shiny paper. The mom told Bellehumeur-Allatt: “Write everything down, all the details. One day it’ll be a book.” In response, Bellehumeur-Allatt promised her she would. The mom likely had no idea that her serendipitous gift would lead to a potentially award-winning book forty years later.
The details in this book make the reader feel like they are in the Middle East with Bellehumeur-Allatt; we truly get a sense of what her life was like four decades ago. For example, the maple leafs sewn into shirts and backpacks. The friend of her mother that sported dyed black hair with a thick fringe across her forehead who moved her body in a way that made the author think of soap opera stars. The blistering lesions from the ringworm they contracted from their kitten. The bulgy, purple, and pulsing vein on a man as they crossed into Syria. Even the descriptions of the Arab call to prayer are powerful. In some places the writing is almost lyrical – it is a beautiful thing!
On a side note, this book was a reminder of the power of what we say to others. The author had a seventh grade teacher who told her: “One day I’ll see your name in print. I’ll come across your books in a bookseller’s.” Those words undoubtedly stuck with Bellehumeur-Allatt over the decades. After all, I am now holding one of her books in my hand.
This book takes me back to when I was a preteen living in Iran (we were there as my Saskatchewanian father was in oil.) War broke out and we fled the country with almost nothing. It was a terrifying time as we watched soldiers take over the streets. Fear and death hung in the air. I love how this book helped bring back many of my buried memories.
If you are looking for a smart, entertaining, historic memoir, pick up a copy of Peacekeeper’s Daughter. I promise you won’t be disappointed!
THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM