Owing to the special conditions of its existence, Israel is a hothouse of psychologies, and Yehoshua's talent has been to catalogue them minutely in his fiction. In his first novel to be published here, he presents young and mysterious Gabriel Arditi, who enters the lives of Adam and his wife Asya, a middle-class Israeli couple, shortly before the 1973 war. Within days Gabriel is gone--to the war? killed? Asya had fallen in love with him, Adam had become obsessed with him, reinventing Gabriel as the son he lost in childhood. Asya's fantasies and Adam's compulsive quest to track ""the lover"" down after the end of the war make up the meat of the book; Yehoshua reduplicates each relationship with different characters, including Adam's young daughter Daft and an Israeli Arab boy he employs in his garage, Na'im. A taut sense of Israeli mood--especially on the Arab-Israeli cusp--is delivered, but it's too swoony a performance in general, too deliberate and microscopic: Yehoshua refuses to draw a single straight line. Evocative but soupy.