The Book of Telling: Trac­ing the Secret of My Father’s Lives

Sharona Muir
  • Review
By – June 25, 2012
After her par­ents’ divorce when she was very young, Sharona Muir knew her beloved father, an inven­tor, sole­ly through their week­ly meet­ings. Only by acci­dent, sev­er­al years after he died, did Muir learn that one of her father’s most impor­tant inven­tions was Israel’s first rock­et. 

Itzhak Ben­tov — Inven­tion-a-Minute Ben” as he came to be known after his emi­gra­tion to the Unit­ed States — was a mem­ber of Hemmed, a secret group of sci­en­tists charged in 1948 by David Ben-Guri­on with cre­at­ing weapons to defend the fledg­ling Jew­ish state. Work­ing under great pres­sure, with attack always immi­nent, they suc­ceed­ed with a com­bi­na­tion of inge­nu­ity and youth­ful fer­vor. In 1999, Muir attend­ed a reunion of the sur­viv­ing mem­bers, who paint­ed a vivid and lov­ing pic­ture of her father and a part of his life she knew noth­ing about. 

The book is a dou­ble telling — the sto­ry of Hemmed and that of Muir’s com­ing to know the father who hid from her. A pro­fes­sor and poet, Muir tells her per­son­al sto­ry poignant­ly, but it is the lit­tle-known sto­ry of Hemmed, whose his­to­ry is still clas­si­fied, that grips the read­er most. Notes, photographs.

Maron L. Wax­man, retired edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor, spe­cial projects, at the Amer­i­can Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry, was also an edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor at Harper­Collins and Book-of-the-Month Club.

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