Standard heartache and uplift.



The first novel by American-born Israel resident Bletter (The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women, 1989) tells the story of four American women living in Peleg, a village on the Mediterranean coast of Israel. 

The women belong to a traditional burial circle, which prepares the dead for interment. While it's supposed to be the novel’s thematic center of gravity, the group feels more like an awkward vehicle to connect the characters’ stories. Aviva grew up in New York and was recruited into spy work by what she calls “the Company” after attending a pro-Israel demonstration in college. Caught in an affair with a fellow spy, she relocated to Israel, became an English teacher, and met her husband, Rafi. Already brokenhearted by the death of her oldest son in a terrorist attack, she struggles to rebuild her life after Rafi dies of a heart attack. Lauren, a nurse from Boston, joins the burial circle after the birth of her first daughter. Deeply homesick for New England’s climate and culture, she can't stop wondering if she made a mistake in agreeing to marry her Israeli husband, David, and relocate with him to his hometown, where she doesn't feel comfortable. In contrast, Lauren’s college roommate, Emily, who follows Lauren to Peleg on a lark after being dumped by her first husband, feels immediately at home. She finds work as a receptionist at the local hotel, meets and marries a taciturn local farmer, Boaz, and soon has twin sons. But military veteran Boaz proves to be emotionally damaged, and Emily finds herself drawn to Ali, a Muslim Arab who dreams of living in America. Thrown into the mix is the annoyingly naïve Rachel, a college student who arrives as a volunteer. Having always felt like an outsider growing up in Wyoming, she embraces her Jewish identity in Israel and soon falls in love with a soldier.

Standard heartache and uplift.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-238244-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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A bold, fertile work lit by powerful images, often consumed by debate, almost old-school in its feminist commitment.


Esther, the Old Testament teenager who reluctantly married a Persian king and saved her people, is connected across the ages to two more contemporary women in a sinuous, thoughtful braid of women’s unceasing struggles for liberty and identity.

Biblical Esther, second-wave feminist Vee, and contemporary mother-of-two Lily are the women whose narrative strands and differing yet sometimes parallel dilemmas are interwoven in Solomon’s (Leaving Lucy Pear, 2016, etc.) questing, unpredictable new novel. All three are grappling—some more dangerously than others—with aspects of male power versus their own self-determination. Esther, selected from 40 virgins to be the second queen—after her predecessor, Vashti, was banished (or worse)—is the strangest. Her magical powers can bring on a shocking physical transformation or reanimate a skeletal bird, yet she is still a prisoner in a gilded cage, mother to an heir, frustrated daughter of an imperiled tribe. Vee, wife of an ambitious senator in 1970s Washington, finds herself a player in a House of Cards–type scenario, pressured toward sexual humiliation by her unscrupulous husband. Lily, in 21st-century Brooklyn, has chosen motherhood over work and is fretting about the costumes for her two daughters to wear at the Purim carnival honoring Esther. Alongside questions of male dominance, issues of sexuality arise often, as do female communities, from Esther’s slave sisters to Vee’s consciousness-raising groups to Lily’s sewing circle. And while layers of overlap continue among the three women's stories—second wives, sewing, humming—so do subtly different individual choices. Finely written and often vividly imagined, this is a cerebral, interior novel devoted to the notion of womanhood as a composite construction made up of myriad stories and influences.

A bold, fertile work lit by powerful images, often consumed by debate, almost old-school in its feminist commitment.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-25701-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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