Sunday, January 30, 2011

To The End of the Land

To the End of the Land by David GrossmanThis is another book that I would have probably picked up simply based on the beauty of its cover but I had also read about it somewhere among all those blogs I subscribe to. I'll be darned if I can remember where.  My very favorite literary blogger, Sam Houston,, wasn't as impressed as I am. As a matter of fact I believe this might be my favorite of the new year.

Mr. Grossman wrote his novel in Hebrew so kudos must also go to translator Jessica Cohen for her lovely conversion to English. I have no doubt that she had a gorgeous book to work with. The language is so emotional, so full of life and feeling and passion, as it should be when one realizes that they are reading a love story that attains epic status as it spans twenty years of the Arab/Israeli conflict.

In 1967 three young people,  victims of a fever that finds them in a near empty hospital in Jerusalem, slowly come to know each other, telling their stories and sharing their loneliness, as war ramps up outside the doors. Avram, Ora and Ilan fall in love, each with the other two, forging a bond that will last the threesome through marriage, childbirth, war and its inevitable suffering, down several generations.

The story unfolds ever so slowly but the pace feels fine because the pleasure is in the words. This is not a novel to be rushed through even though our new county policy means that I'm accruing fines on my library card even as I type!

 Mr. Grossman is a marvel at portraying his female character, Ora. Who says that a man can't feel what a woman feels at childbirth? Grossman disabuses us of that myth when he speaks through Ora about her relationship with her first born, Adam, and then later with her son, Ofar.

That visceral connection is nowhere better imagined than when Ora, finally able to be free of of a constant, overriding dread, as Ofar served his three years in the military, plans for the two of them to take an extended hike in hopes of reconnecting and getting to know each other again.

Ofar, instead, chooses to re up for one more mission. Ora's agony and fear overtake her and, rather than sit at home by the TV waiting for the unimaginable news that she's sure will come, she chooses to leave her home, find Avram,  the victim of post traumatic stress from his experiences as a prisoner of war, and force him to accompany her into the countryside on the hike she was to share with her son.

Through Ora's storytelling, and through flashbacks, readers  begin to appreciate the complicated web that has encircled Avram, Ilan, Ora, and her children for years. This is such a rich novel that I feel inadequate in my ability to do it justice for you. There's no doubt in my mind that this is the author's plea for peace in the Middle East and a love letter to his son Uri who died, if my reading is correct, while  Mr. Grossman was writing this beautiful work. Even one more death is too many.

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