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Publisher's Summary

From one of the most important contemporary voices to emerge from the Middle East comes a gripping tale of love and betrayal, honesty and artifice, which asks whether it is possible to truly reinvent ourselves, to shed our old skin and start anew.

Second Person Singular follows two men, a successful Arab criminal attorney and a social worker-turned-artist, whose lives intersect under the most curious of circumstances. The lawyer has a thriving practice in the Jewish part of Jerusalem, a large house, a Mercedes, speaks both Arabic and Hebrew, and is in love with his wife and two young children. In an effort to uphold his image as a sophisticated Israeli Arab, he often makes weekly visits to a local bookstore to pick up popular novels. On one fateful evening, he decides to buy a used copy of Tolstoy's The Kreutzer Sonata, a book his wife once recommended. To his surprise, inside he finds a small white note, a love letter, in Arabic, in her handwriting. "I waited for you, but you didn't come. I hope everything's all right. I wanted to thank you for last night. It was wonderful. Call me tomorrow?"

Consumed with suspicion and jealousy, the lawyer slips into a blind rage over the presumed betrayal. He first considers murder, revenge, then divorce, but when the initial sting of humiliation and hurt dissipates, he decides to hunt for the book's previous owner - a man named Yonatan, a man who is not easy to track down, whose identity is more complex than imagined, and whose life is more closely aligned with his own than expected. In the process of dredging up old ghosts and secrets, the lawyer tears the string that holds all of their lives together.

A Palestinian who writes in Hebrew, Sayed Kashua defies classification and breaks through cultural barriers. He communicates, with enormous emotional power and a keen sense of the absurd, the particular alienation and the psychic costs of people struggling to straddle two worlds. Second Person Singular is a deliciously complex psychological mystery and a searing dissection of the individuals that comprise a divided society.

©2010 Sayed Kashua. Translation copyright 2012 by Mitch Ginsburg. Recorded by arrangement with Grove Atlantic, Inc. (P)2014 Audible Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Part comedy of manners, part psychological mystery.... Issues of nationalism, religion, and passing collide with quickly changing social and sexual mores." ( Boston Globe)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

A great read!

A refreshing and entertaining novel from a modern Arab Israeli perspective. An angle not often seen in the the Israeli Arab narrative. A highly recommended work of fiction!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent story, but performance needed work

How did the narrator detract from the book?

The narrator did an excellent job with the Arabic-speaking characters, but didn't even bother to find out how to pronounce the names of the main Hebrew-speaking characters. That's unforgivable. He also didn't differentiate between Israeli and Palestinian accents. It's a demanding book to perform and the narrator should have been better prepared.

Any additional comments?

Keshua is an excellent writer who tells a compelling story.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant writing

Loved this fascinating story-a very unusual glimpse into the lives of Palestinian Israeli professionals. The narration was good, but, as a Hebrew speaker, I was bothered by mispronunciation of Hebrew words and use of same accents for Hebrew and Arabic speakers.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

So glad I made it through.

I only finished this book because I can't stand not to finish things. I found one of the two main characters completely unsympathetic and toward the middle of the book he perseverates incessantly on one track, badly in need of an editor. I persisted and made it through to the end, which suddenly rushed to completion, after the rest of the book had dragged on interminably. I'm really disappointed because the subject matter seemed compelling and I was eager to hear a unique point of view (or two). I don't have an issue with the narrator as others do, because I've no idea what the accents should sound like, so to my monolingual ear it was just fine. Maybe others will have better luck with this. A more sympathetic character would have helped me. There were other elements of the story (in the second character's story) that I was interested in and intrigued by and a book primarily about that character would have worked better for me.