A writer’s life amid tremors of war.
In his debut book of nonfiction, Israeli writer Keret (Suddenly, a Knock on the Door, 2012, etc.) chronicles seven years bracketed by two momentous events: the birth of his son, Lev, and his father’s death from cancer. The author represents each year with a handful of musings, some serious, others frothy. He recounts an absurd conversation with a telemarketer, for example; silly dedications he makes up during Hebrew Book Week; growing a mustache as a birthday present for his son; his lackluster efforts to exercise; and Lev’s many cute remarks. The best pieces are quietly moving. After a neighbor asked him if he had considered whether his son, then 3, would join the army, Keret was surprised that his wife had already made her decision. “I don’t want him to go into the army,” she announced. Would she rather have other people’s children fight instead? Keret asked heatedly. “I’m saying that we could have reached a peaceful solution a long time ago, and we still can,” she replied, but not if Israeli leaders “know that most people are like you: they won’t hesitate to put their children’s lives into the government’s irresponsible hands.” One day as they were driving, an air-raid siren blared. Lev refused to lie down on the side of the road until Keret devised a game of “Pastrami Sandwich,” with he and his wife as the two slices of bread and Lev the pastrami between them. It was such fun that Lev wanted to play Pastrami “if there’s another siren…but what if there aren’t any more sirens ever?” he worried. “I think there’ll be at least one or two more,” Keret assured him. After a Polish architect built the author a minimalist house in Warsaw, reflecting his stories’ spare structures, Keret sat in the kitchen eating jam “sour with memories.” His mother grew up in Warsaw and became an orphan after the Nazis killed her family.
Gentle reflections on love, family, and heritage.