BLACK ELEPHANTS by Karol Nielsen


A Memoir
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A poetic and painful debut memoir about a young marriage filled with idealism and adventure that unravels under the pressure of daily life in Israel during the first Gulf War.

Nielsen (Memoir Writing/New York Univ.) grows weary when people assume her marriage ended because of differences over religion, nationality and culture; she asserts that she and her husband were prepared for those challenges. Nielsen, who was raised in Connecticut by her Christian Scientists parents, and Aviv, an Israeli atheist with Romanian-born parents, met in Peru. Nielsen was traveling after quitting her reporting job in Buenos Aires, Aviv doing the same after completing his mandatory military service. The two reunited in New York, where they continued to develop a loving relationship. When Aviv proposed to her, Nielsen moved to Israel to get to know his family and country during the engagement while he finished school and she worked on a kibbutz; they planned to return to New York for the wedding and for Nielsen to start graduate school. Missile attacks from Iraq, however, were not part of the plan. The threat of chemical and biological warfare made them quick experts on assembling gas masks and preparing atropine injectors. Aviv buried himself in his work, while Nielsen’s loneliness was exacerbated by her new in-laws’ stoic approach to war. Certain passages and anecdotes feel forced into the main narrative, and Nielsen indulges in explaining the meaning of her memoir in the final chapter, but on the whole her prose is appealing and adept.

A memorable read that captures the hopefulness of falling in love and traces its sad trajectory into quiet terror amid the chaos of war and its aftermath.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-8032-3537-3
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Bison/Univ. of Nebraska
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2011


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