America’s refusal to take in thousands of Israeli refugees incites national tumult in Schwartz’s (On a Barge in France, 2016) thriller.
After an atomic bomb devastates Tel Aviv, two ships filled with Israeli refugees arrive at Boston Harbor. But the U.S. bars their entrance, partly due to the more recent bombing in Damascus, which most presume was Israel’s retaliation to Tel Aviv. Tensions escalate when rocket-propelled grenades—from both ships—hit Coast Guard vessels and result in casualties. When refugees subsequently flee, U.S. President Lawrence Quaid ultimately declares them enemy combatants to be caught and held in a detention camp. American Jews, such as lawyer Ben Shapiro, are shocked by what has all the markings of another Holocaust. In apparent response, allegedly Jewish suicide bombers kill numerous citizens. But Shapiro eventually crosses paths with a group that may be even more dangerous. Debra Reuben, the last surviving member of the Israeli Prime Minister’s cabinet, and Chaim Levi of the Israeli Defense Forces concoct a plan that could entail detonating a nuclear device on American soil. Much of Schwartz’s story is topical. For example, the U.S. ostracizes immigrants by issuing Americards, identification for proving citizenship and ensuring that employers don’t hire those without one. The author skillfully captures the country’s political turmoil. As citizens debate accepting refugees, Boston’s Haitian community opposes it since it would indicate favoritism to “white illegals.” The novel doesn’t take an overt stand on immigration. Quaid, for one, doesn’t display signs of villainy (despite some people’s equating him to Hitler) in that his decisions aren’t based on malice. While the novel is predominantly stark and serious, it’s occasionally wry, like when a character notes that it’s not hard to quickly source materials for an explosive device: “Not in modern America. Not with next-day delivery from Amazon.”
A methodical, convincing story of political upheaval.