Diana Bletter’s excellent writing makes the characters of A Remarkable Kindness come alive in this moving story about community, family, personal growth, and difficult loss in Israel. All living in an Israeli village close to the border with Lebanon, the four American women support each other through life’s challenges in the chevra kadisha, together preparing bodies of deceased neighbors for burial with respect and love. There is Aviva, who moved to Israel long ago and whose son recently died as soldier in the IDF; Lauren, who followed her Israeli husband home but for whom home will always be Boston; Emily, who followed Lauren after Emily’s first marriage fell apart when her husband left her for another woman; and Rachel, who comes from Wyoming to help, whatever that means, and finds real love instead. And there are the people of their community — the owner of the local inn, Holocaust survivors, the local surfing instructor, and so many more — who add perspective, wisdom, and laughter to everyday life.
Relationships are the cornerstone of this novel: relationships between friends, between couples, between families, between those who came to Israel long ago and those who have recently arrived, between Jewish Israelis and Arab Israelis, between kids and adults, and even for those who appear too hurt to be in a relationship with anyone but open up after all. These relationships are not easy; the universal tensions of love, betrayal, and change arise in sometimes typical — and other times surprising — ways. But Bletter’s expert attention to the details of emotion and the authenticity of lived experience carries the reader through sadness and confusion to wisdom.
With her clear, coherent, and poignant writing, Bletter delivers a book that is easy and quick to read but still meaningful and powerful on a deeper level. The end, part shocking and part reality check, combined with detailed descriptions of the work of the chevra kadisha, means the book is best suited to those who are in a position to open themselves to these hard topics. That said, Bletter handles these sensitive subjects with grace and sensitivity, and readers will learn a lot about the world and themselves from this fantastic book.