• Review
By – May 18, 2015

Short sto­ry writer Jes­samyn Hope’s pow­er­ful debut nov­el draws on her expe­ri­ences liv­ing in Israel in its depic­tion of a seclud­ed kib­butz com­mu­ni­ty. The pri­ma­ry pro­tag­o­nist, Adam, is a for­mer drug addict who steals a fam­i­ly heir­loom to pay for his vices; when his grand­fa­ther dis­cov­ers that the brooch his miss­ing, he has a heart attack and dies. Plagued by guilt, Adam uses the only clue he has — a let­ter from his grandfather’s young lover that accom­pa­nied the heir­loom — to locate the woman and give her the brooch, hop­ing that by doing so he will have in some way absolved him­self. Adam traces his grandfather’s foot­steps back to the kib­butz where the two had met, but is unable to locate his grandfather’s for­mer lover. Frus­trat­ed by his fail­ures, Adam is unable to stay sober and slow­ly unravels.

Hope’s nov­el, writ­ten from mul­ti­ple per­spec­tives, makes the read­er feel a part of the tightknit and at times sti­fling com­mu­ni­ty. In skill­ful­ly exe­cut­ed dra­mat­ic irony, Hope leaves the read­ers in a posi­tion of under­stand­ing far more about the res­i­dents than they do about each oth­er. Through this tech­nique, Hope reveals that even though these char­ac­ters live so close to each oth­er and have been togeth­er for so many years, they do not know about each other’s pasts or aspi­ra­tions for the future.

Through­out the nov­el, Hope mov­ing­ly por­trays the strug­gle of young Zion­ists to rec­on­cile the social­ist roots of the move­ment with the emer­gence of cap­i­tal­ism and mod­ern­iza­tion in Israel. This con­flict is played out through the kib­butz res­i­dents’ dis­agree­ments about imple­ment­ing dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed income. This issue cou­pled with Adam’s sense of oblig­a­tion to his deceased grand­fa­ther togeth­er evoke the broad­er ques­tion of what indi­vid­u­als owe to their ances­tors. This ques­tion is par­tic­u­lar­ly rel­e­vant for con­tem­po­rary Jews as the Holo­caust gen­er­a­tion fades into mem­o­ry and their descen­dants grap­ple with hon­or­ing their mem­o­ry and uphold­ing their tra­di­tions while redefin­ing what it means to be a Jew.

Read­ers inter­est­ed in the devel­op­ment of Zion­ist ide­ol­o­gy and its endur­ing impact on the rela­tion­ships between mem­bers of kib­butz­im will find Hope’s nov­el inter­est­ing and mov­ing. While some might be frus­trat­ed by Adam’s lack of a sense of respon­si­bil­i­ty, oth­ers will find his weak char­ac­ter to be a refresh­ing twist on the clas­si­cal­ly strong, imper­turbable kib­butznik of Israeli lore.

Edyt Dick­stein is a grad­u­ate of the Joseph Kush­n­er Hebrew Acad­e­my in Liv­ingston, NJ and is study­ing at Har­vard University.

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