The last of a trilogy (after Ten Thousand Lovers, 2003, etc.) portrays the emerging character of Israel through the relatively low-key, emotionally limpid diary entries of three characters from different generations.
An epiphanic day in the life of a deaf Tel Aviv University math professor, Sonya Vronsky, holds center court, while Sonya’s mother and cousin also offer journal entries containing some family history. The mother, Anna, a new refugee to Israel, writes to her lover back in Russia during the late 1950s, while her cousin, Noah, in his youthful diary reveals the milieu he and Sonya grew up in during the 1980s. First, though, Sonya, at 33, has been living with her attentive older brother, Kostya, in a gorgeous house in Tel Aviv he purchased out of guilt for the defining catastrophes of Sonya’s life: her deafness, caused by an overdose of medicine given when she had a kidney infection at age 12; and a vicious rape she survived as a young student when twin drugged-out teenagers broke into her deserted university classroom. Sonya, as she reveals in her breezy journals, is a remarkably resilient character devoid of self-pity or sense of entitlement; she is determined to live her life her own way—that is, lose her virginity properly and take a lover. Goaded by a flirtation with one of her students, she proceeds to seduce the Arab taxi driver who brings her home, and afterward she convinces her brother and friends to help her find him again. In her journal, Anna, newly escaped from the Soviet Union and living with young son Kostya, records her involvement with an amateur theater production; Anna will learn of her lover’s death, precipitating her dark journey into alcoholism. Noah, in turn, will venture into adolescent flirtations and the trial of serving in the Israeli army.
Handling a tricky juxtaposition of three disparate lives with grace and wit, Ravel shows her characters forging a country out of trauma.