Dror Burstein; Dalya Bilu, trans.

  • Review
By – March 4, 2013

This short haunt­ing nov­el by an acclaimed Israeli writer tells the sto­ry of a cou­ple unable to con­ceive who adopt a child from an orphan­age at one day old. We read about the per­spec­tives of the birth par­ents, the adopt­ed par­ents, and their son, Emile. The chap­ters are named for each of the five char­ac­ters, and some­times two or three togeth­er as we are privy to their inner­most thoughts. The birth par­ents are nev­er named; inter­est­ing­ly they are only rep­re­sent­ed as ( ) and ( ). The sto­ry goes back and forth in time and includes the adop­tion of Emile, the acci­den­tal death of the adop­tive moth­er, Leah, the adop­tive father Yoel’s attempt to give back the adult Emile to his unwill­ing birth par­ents, Emile’s school days and army induc­tion, and oth­er points in Emile’s and Yoel’s lives. Incom­plete sen­tences, wan­der­ing thoughts, and night­mares cre­ate a sur­re­al sense of dis­con­nec­tion. It is dif­fi­cult to tell what is real and what is a dream. The sto­ry revolves around fate, loss, lone­li­ness, emo­tion­al con­trol, and lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Yoel is defined by his strug­gle with being left alone with Emile. There are few moments of warmth between the char­ac­ters. Black and white pho­tos and line draw­ings offer a respite from the dark­ness of Kin, though no fur­ther enlight­en­ment. I was com­pelled to con­tin­ue read­ing this sto­ry through to the end, wish­ing for a sense of hope, but it left me bewildered.

Relat­ed: The Hebrew Lit­er­a­ture Series at Dalkey Archive Press

Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams is a Cuban-born, Brook­lyn-raised, Long Island-resid­ing mom. She is Hadas­sah Nas­sau’s One Region One Book chair­la­dy, a free­lance essay­ist, and a cer­ti­fied yoga instruc­tor who has loved review­ing books for the JBC for the past ten years.

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