Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. She has lectured on a variety of topics relating to children and books and her greatest joy is reading to her grandchildren on both sides of the ocean. Michal lives in Great Neck, NY and Efrat, Israel.
Death permeates A. B. Yehoshua’s latest take on Israeli society; death and regret and bitterness and despair. And yet, as Yehoshua is wont in his masterful way to do, he has given us a complex and nuanced story which is also filled with optimism and love and light and hope.
Beautifully rendered, this is the story of Amotz Yaari and his wife, Daniela, who is leaving him for the week of Hanukkah to visit her brother-in-law who has moved to Tanzania after the death of Daniela’s sister, his wife. Amotz and Daniela have rarely been apart during the course of their long marriage and separation and distance highlight and foreshadow the events in the story. Yaari, the soul of responsibility, takes care of his extended family, worries about the strange wind-like sounds emitting from the elevator shaft in a recent project he designed, and, with general good humor, tries to care-take his world. His brother- in-law, conversely, has run as far as he is able from Israeli society, abjuring even a glance at a Hebrew newspaper or a possible chance meeting with a visiting Israeli. Haunting the narrative and shedding light on the actions of all the others is one character remaining unseen and unheard, a soldier killed by “friendly fire” during the Intifada. This act of inadvertent violence, the “friendly fire,” along with the glowing fire of the Hanukkah candles, illuminates the tangled mosaic that is Israeli life in a unique and memorable way. The novel is filled with balance and counter-balance; the solider who gave his all and the one who can no longer bear to soldier on; those who seek intimacy and those who feel the need to disengage; the highs and lows, literal and figurative, in the life of an elevator engineer. All this is set within the greatest conundrum of all, daily Israeli life with the mix of security and insecurity that come along with every breath and every step.
Friendly Fire, though all new in its creativity of character and plot, is vintage Yehoshua in its expression of love and concern for his people and land.
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