Bear­ing the Body

Ehud Havazelet
  • Review
By – February 24, 2012

At the begin­ning of Ehud Havazelet’s pre­cise­ly craft­ed and beau­ti­ful­ly writ­ten first nov­el, we meet Nathan Mirsky, a deeply trou­bled yet well-mean­ing med­ical school stu­dent liv­ing in Boston. Nathan soon learns that his long estranged broth­er, Daniel, has been mur­dered. For­mer­ly a promi­nent stu­dent pro­tes­tor and activist in the 1960’s, Daniel had recent­ly fall­en on hard times, and mys­tery per­vades the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing his death. 

Nathan approach­es his wid­ow­er father Sol about going to San Fran­cis­co to col­lect Daniel’s body. Sol, whose days are rit­u­al­is­ti­cal­ly filled with swim­ming and writ­ing let­ters to fel­low Holo­caust sur­vivors, some­what hes­i­tant­ly agrees to come along to pay his final respects. Once Nathan and Sol reach San Fran­cis­co, they meet Daniel’s griev­ing girl­friend Abby, and her son Ben. The two men even­tu­al­ly come to real­ize that Daniel had a life beyond what they could have imag­ined, indi­rect­ly caus­ing them each to reflect upon their past behaviors.

These glimpses into their weak­ness­es, obses­sions, long­ings, and mem­o­ries are bril­liant­ly con­ceived and utter­ly mem­o­rable. Havazelet leaves us with the over­whelm­ing sense that fam­i­ly and tra­di­tion can shape our iden­ti­ties in sur­pris­ing and uncon­ven­tion­al ways.

Phil Sandick is a grad­u­ate of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin-Madi­son. He has taught cours­es in lit­er­a­ture, com­po­si­tion, and cre­ative writ­ing since 2006. Phil is cur­rent­ly study­ing rhetoric and com­po­si­tion at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na-Chapel Hill.

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