Brumm’s (Come Drink Coffee with Me—Husband Hunting in Israel, 1994) latest novel explores how daily life survives in a land defined by conflict.
Endless territorial and religious conflicts boil this strip of arid land that’s home to expatriates from around the world. In her story of contemporary Israel, Brumm selects a diverse cast of characters connected by a plot to shut down a Palestinian terrorist cell. Zion, a Mossad agent, recruits Romanian-born Reuven, a sexy scientist, to seduce the terrorist leader’s sister, Laila, to gain access to the cell’s hideaway and thwart its terrifying plans. Each character connects somehow to Heike, a German nurse married to an abusive Palestinian, and Michelle, an American writer trolling for a sperm donor from the promised land. Their affairs and enmities take readers from the cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv to the ancient holy city of Jerusalem and the harsh, rocky heights of Nablus on the West Bank. Attempts to prevent disaster lead to other disasters, including honor killings: brutal murders done for the sake of preserving image or conforming to philosophy—a concept alien to liberal Westerners who tend to take personal freedom for granted. The most fully realized and tragically human character is Heike, whose only agenda is to share love and nurture life. Yet she’s hurt more than the other characters combined and, as an act of retribution, is driven to perform the book’s most profound honor killing. Excessive typos distract from the narrative, as if this draft were rushed because of an overwhelming urgency to tell the world about the tortured region. Nevertheless, the story’s heart rises to the top and offers insight into both the clashing cultures and the universality of the human spirit against all odds.
An emotionally riveting but poorly executed drama about life in a war zone.