OPEN HEART by A.B. Yehoshua


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 Israeli writer Yehoshua (the prize-winning Mr. Mani, 1992, etc.) returns to the more intimate dilemmas of his previous work. Where Mr. Mani was a sweeping, multigenerational tale with an omniscient narrator, Yehoshua's latest is a slow-developing drama of adultery told almost completely from the point of view of its principal character--Benjy Rubin, a bright young intern at a Tel Aviv hospital, whose fondest desire is to be a surgeon, though his mentor, Dr. Hishin, is trying to steer him into internal medicine. Things take an unexpected turn when at Hishin's recommendation Benjy is asked to accompany the hospital's administrative director, Lazar, to India to tend for and retrieve Lazar's daughter Einat. Joining the two will be Lazar's wife, Dori. Benjy acquits himself well in India but on his return finds himself irresistibly drawn to Dori: ``Ever since my mysterious infatuation. . . ,'' he says at one point, ``my life had begun flowing along a crooked, winding course.'' The story follows the same course, taking Benjy through a friend's wedding that leads him almost directly to the altar with a surprising partner, then to a year's stay in England working in an exchange program with another hospital, and, finally, to the birth of his daughter. When Lazar dies after a seemingly routine bypass operation, Benjy's relationship with Dori takes a series of unexpected turns, resulting in the apparent destruction of his marriage. Yehoshua tells this tale with his usual deft sense of irony, even though his narrator, however self-conscious, remains apparently unaware of how ridiculous he becomes at times; and the author's device of intervening periodically to offer dreamlike asides obliquely related to the story becomes distracting, making a long book seem even longer. Still, even if not up to its predecessor, this is nonetheless the work of a superb novelist: haunting and annoying by turns, with considerable emotional payoff at the close. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-385-26793-2
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1996


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