Peerless Israeli storyteller Oz presents 18 months in the life of painfully self-contained Yoel Raviv, retired from the Israeli Secret Service and trying to escape the ghosts of his professional life and his dead wife--a woman he's still struggling to know. Bedeviled by memories of his wife Ivria, accidentally electrocuted in his absence on business in Helsinki; of his servitude to agency contact Yirmiyahu Cordovero ("Le Patron"); and of an obsessively recurring series of frozen images--the statue of a cat mysteriously springing free of its base; the figure of Edgar Linton from Wuthering Heights; a wheelchair-bound beggar; a copy of Mrs. Dalloway left behind in Helsinki--Yoel reacts in two conflicting ways. Frantic to be left alone, he changes his name, retreats to a new house in a Tel Aviv suburb, and refuses a posting to Bangkok. At the same time, he reaches out equally frantically to his strong-willed, epileptic daughter Netta, about to be conscripted, and to his quarreling mother and mother-in-law, by asking them all to live with him; he also begins a robotic friendship with real-estate agent Arik Krantz and an equally passive love affair with next-door neighbor Annemarie Vermont, shepherded by her oppressively approving bother Ralph. Floating through this tangle of relationships, Yoel keeps telling himself that things will work out, that tomorrow is another day, but he's wrong--as he sees when his mother and Netta's lover Duby Krantz tell him off for his inability to accept people without controlling them, and when he's unable to get forgiven by the father of the agent killed in Bangkok in his place. Slowly, slowly, Oz thaws out his likable, paralyzed hero and returns him to provisional membership in the human race. A meditative third-person confessional of hauntingly quiet power--and a treasure for readers who think contemporary novels carry too much plot.