From one of Israel’s most acclaimed writers comes a novel of extraordinary power about family life - the greatest human drama - and the cost of war.
Ora, a middle-aged Israeli mother, is on the verge of celebrating her son Ofer’s release from army service when he returns to the front for a major offensive. In a fit of preemptive grief and magical thinking, she sets out for a hike in the Galilee, leaving no forwarding information for the “notifiers” who might darken her door with the worst possible news.
Recently estranged from her husband, Ilan, she drags along an unlikely companion: their former best friend and her former lover, Avram, once a brilliant artistic spirit. Avram served in the army alongside Ilan when they were young, but their lives were forever changed one weekend when the two jokingly had Ora draw lots to see which of them would get the few days’ leave being offered by their commander—a chance act that sent Avram into Egpyt and the Yom Kippur War, where he was brutally tortured as POW. In the aftermath, a virtual hermit, he refused to keep in touch with the family and has never met the boy.
Now, as Ora and Avram sleep out in the hills, ford rivers, and cross valleys, avoiding all news from the front, she gives him the gift of Ofer, word by word; she supplies the whole story of her motherhood, a retelling that keeps Ofer very much alive for Ora and for the listener, and opens Avram to human bonds undreamed of in his broken world. Their walk has a “war and peace” rhythm, as their conversation places the most hideous trials of war next to the joys and anguish of raising children. Never have we seen so clearly the reality and surreality of daily life in Israel, the currents of ambivalence about war within one household, and the burdens that fall on each generation anew.
Grossman’s rich imagining of a family in love and crisis makes for one of the great antiwar novels of our time.
©2010 David Grossman (P)2010 Random House Audio
“Grossman’s greatest fictional creation [is] Ora: tender, passionate, angry, funny, self-doubting, intuitive, above all a woman of ‘abundance.’ . . . [Her story] encompasses both the complex fullness of one life and the broader history of Israel’s modern conflicts. . . . This most Israeli of Grossman’s novels is also his most universal.” (George Packer, The New Yorker)
“This is a book of overwhelming power and intensity, David Grossman's masterpiece. Flaubert created his Emma, Tolstoy made his Anna, and now we have Grossman's Ora—as fully alive, as fully embodied, as any character in recent fiction. I devoured this long novel in a feverish trance. Wrenching, beautiful, unforgettable.” (Paul Auster)
“Enthralling. . . . Unsparing yet compassionate . . . Grossman’s electrifying narrative seems excruciatingly timely. . . . Unforgettable. . . . The unstudied beauty and psychological complexity of Grossman’s language, his deft and lively dialogue, are utterly compelling. . . . Rendered in Jessica Cohen’s exquisite translation, Grossman’s symphonic novel straddles despair and hope, a journey into inner and outer landscapes, delivering stunning rewards.” (The Miami Herald)
The reviews of this book have been strong and a book-friend highly recommended the written version. When I sampled the audible version, I hesitated because the reading sounded dull, uninspired, a bit whiney - but I took the plunge. I regret it.
I quote another reviewer (different book, same reader) because it expresses my reaction: "I found myself mentally rolling my eyes at some of the dialogue, until it occured to me that the problem was the reader and not the prose. When I imagined reading the words I was listening to, everything fell into place and the book instantly improved. "
An amazing book - incredible that a man can write so sensitively about maternal feelings, and also observes so minutely and accurately childrens behaviour and language. The narrator left a bit to be desired - but it was not insurmountable, as the story is so absorbing.
I purchased this as a gift for my wife, but she cannot listen to it. She says the narrator is so inept and inappropriate for this remarkable book, it pains her to listen. The company that released this needs to be told to re-record it with a narrator sensitive to the nuances of the language and the story. I wish I could get our money back.
The story is so close to the bone for anyone who has a child serving in the Israeli Army and this book really deserves 5 stars. This book takes you into the soul of present day Israel.
Unfortunately, the narrator, who otherwise reads beautifully, mangles almost every Hebrew phrase or name place. This was so aggravating and made it impossible to follow the story. I was unable to finish listening to this book.
Disappointed. There were no reviews when I bought the book . I based my purchase on the description. that was a mistake. I may not be able to finish it. I am finding it tediously dull - I am not sure if it is the fault of the narrator , the story or both.
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