Sunday, October 03, 2010

2010 book 239

David Grossman's To the End of the Land
It's taken me a while to get through this book, both because of the length and because it's not easy reading. Grossman--who is one of my favorite Israeli authors (ok, one of my favorite authors, period)--started working on this book when his older son was in the army, and was still working on it when his younger son was killed two weeks before his discharge. Which makes the whole thing completely heartbreaking. At its heart is a love triangle, between Ora and Avram and Ilan, who meet as teenagers in a hospital in 1967--and then we shoot to 2000, when Ora as an adult is recently separated from Ilan, and her second son--Avram's son--has just extended his stay in the military. She forces the troubled and damaged Avram on a bizarre hiking trip, where she tells him the story of her family in an effort to protect their son. Part of this are slow--I really could have done without an extended sequence involving the dangers of bus rides toward the end--but in general, it's an excellent portrait of a family dealing with war, and an especially thought-provoking glimpse into Israeli society. It's a good enough novel to have merited the front page review in the NYT Book Review two weeks ago, so I'm not the only one affected by this. And knowing Grossman's son didn't survive, and he felt all these things waiting, adds an overlay of emotion to a story that didn't really need any assistance. A.

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