Legend Press, June 1, 2016.
I was drawn into this novel in spite of myself – for some reason, I thought the subject matter might be a little dry, but actually I couldn’t put it down. Its depiction of life in Israel, while at war with Palestine, certainly makes you consider current world events in new ways, and it is done by showing us dramatic scenes and quiet moments – the author never tells us how to think or feel. It is not an easy read, but it is a necessary one.
The novel follows two young men as their lives eventually intersect in surprising ways. Udi is a 26-year-old veteran of the Israeli army. He was injured during battle and he still carries the shrapnel in his pocket, as a reminder of what he has been through and his aspirations for the future. Udi desperately wants to leave Israel, and he lines up a job with his cousins in London – but he does so without consulting his long-time girlfriend, jeopardizing their relationship.
At the same time in England, Daniel is a 29-year-old investment banker with a successful career, and great friends and family. In spite of his seemingly perfect life, he feels an emptiness inside. Most importantly, he is struggling with his Jewish faith – he thinks he should be doing more to express it. His friendship with female Muslim Safia is the perfect format for the two to discuss their conflicting religions, and while Daniel believes Safia’s faith is preventing them from moving into a romantic relationship, it is in fact Daniel’s own devoutness that stops him from loving her.
As protests break out in London against Israel’s invasion of Gaza, Daniel becomes alarmed by the increasing Anti-Semitism in his own country. Meanwhile, he is equally shocked by his Jewish friends expressing racism against Muslims: “Hatred for a whole religion, culture, people? Isn’t that what we’re fighting against?” (Loc. 4086) Daniel’s grandmother, a survivor of a World War II concentration camp, tells him that the only good thing to come from the Holocaust was the creation of Israel, and so it must be protected at all costs. With her blessing, Daniel decides to move to Israel, in spite of the very real chance that he will be forced to join the army and fight.
There is a third storyline set in Jerusalem, in which a star-crossed love affair occurs between a young Jewish girl and an Arabic man – it is hard to follow because the novel moves between continents as well as time periods. It’s best to stop worrying about how it will all come together and just trust the author to guide is there – but I do wish the three stories had connected sooner.
This novel shows empathy in action, as people of opposing political and religious views are forced to see things from another angle. Udi’s sister writes in a letter that “We are losing our ability to see another side, to just recognize the suffering there, let alone take responsibility for it.” (Loc. 3446) In our current political climate, I think this is a lesson we can all learn.
I received this novel from Legend Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.