The Wolf Hunt

  • Review
By – September 26, 2023

The cen­tral mys­tery in The Wolf Hunt, the fifth nov­el by Israeli writer Ayelet Gun­dar-Goshen, unveils itself in the first para­graph. A boy, Jamal Jones, has died. Adam, the protagonist’s son, is sus­pect­ed of his mur­der. His moth­er Lilach doesn’t believe her beloved child could be capa­ble of such vio­lence. But who would trust a mother’s opin­ion of her own son? As one char­ac­ter in this propul­sive, unex­pect­ed nov­el says, The great­est mys­tery in people’s lives is their children.” 

The nov­el toss­es the read­er direct­ly into vio­lence and may­hem, begin­ning with a ter­ror­ist attack. Paul Reed, a Black man, walks into a Reform syn­a­gogue in Sil­i­con Val­ley with a machete and kills a young white Jew­ish con­gre­gant. Lilach, ter­ri­fied that her pas­sive, meek child could be next, enrolls him in a self-defense class taught by a for­mer Israeli com­man­do. But when Jamal dies at a house par­ty, Adam, who has just start­ed com­ing out of his shell, is sus­pect­ed of poi­son­ing him. These indi­vid­ual con­fronta­tions between white Jew­ish Amer­i­cans and Black Amer­i­cans instant­ly take on a larg­er sig­nif­i­cance. Are Jews unsafe in a coun­try awash with anti­se­mit­ic con­spir­a­cy? Can Black peo­ple sur­vive hos­tile, white spaces? 

In the face of these pat media nar­ra­tives, Lilach tries to uncov­er the truth, a task much more slip­pery than she antic­i­pates. Char­ac­ters are ren­dered grad­u­al­ly and sub­jec­tive­ly through Lilach’s nar­ra­tion, which mean­ders from past to present and back again. Lilach wants to know Adam, but she also shrinks from him, afraid. And she, like her son, is lone­ly. Not quite an Amer­i­can, yet no longer ful­ly Israeli, she is adrift between worlds. This book is as much a med­i­ta­tion on immi­grant dis­lo­ca­tion as it is on Amer­i­can racial con­flict. Lilach has escaped Israeli insan­i­ty,” only to find her­self at the cen­ter of Amer­i­can insan­i­ty — an insan­i­ty she has to par­tic­i­pate in, but, as an out­sider, will nev­er ful­ly understand. 

The Wolf Hunt is a smart book that shies away from easy answers. Teens Jamal and Adam come into focus and then blur again, refus­ing to be pinned down. In one moment, they are lov­ing, and the next, vicious. Is the ten­sion between them the result of prej­u­dice, or is some­thing more inti­mate, some­thing stranger, going on? 

As this tense nov­el hur­tles to its con­clu­sion, unex­pect­ed twists and turns arise. The reader’s under­stand­ing of what has come before is flipped on its head. Gun­dar-Goshen is a pre­cise writer, whose atten­tion to detail breathes life into her char­ac­ters. In her world, much like in our own, we know only what peo­ple tell us, if we’re brave enough to ask. 

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