Should I read this book? I often have trouble deciding that. In this case, the arguments in favor included that fact that the author was the 2008 Nobel Prize winner Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio. On the other hand, I'd never heard of him. Not really surprising - I've never heard of several of the recent Literature prize winners: Herta Müller, Elfriede Jelinek, Imre Kertész, just to name a few. The Nobel Committee has been accused of becoming too Eurocentric and increasingly esoteric.
Also, I'm always hesitant to read a novel in translation because you are at the mercy of the translator. Am I really experiencing the prose as the author intended it, or is the translation too literal or badly mangled? But the book had been recommended to me so I forged ahead.
Wandering Star tells the coming of age story of two young girls. The first is Esther, a secular Jewish girl who is forced to leave her French mountain village in the waning days of World War II in order to escape the Germans. Eventually she and her mother reach the newly established state of Israel. The second is Nejma, an orphaned Palestinian girl, who is displaced by the partitioning of her country. The girls encounter each other for only one brief moment on a road, as Esther and her fellow refugees are moving toward Jerusalem, and Nejma is moving away from it.
The story Le Clézio tells has nothing to do with politics. He describes in simple prose these two 'wandering stars', young women searching for peace and acceptance in the midst of war and profound human misery. The book's dedication - “To the captured children” - expresses his empathy for both his characters. In the midst of fear and deprivation each is still able to appreciate the beauties of nature and each remains open to love and human kindness.