A curious and beautiful study of lives loosely linked by family and heritage.
Proprietor of a successful pajama factory catering to the ultra-Orthodox Jews in Tel Baruch North, Israel, Mandy Gruber ought to feel empowered. Unfortunately, she is hamstrung by deathbed promises made to her mother, an astonishing woman who courageously escaped Rhodesia and pulled herself out of certain poverty as a widowed refugee by founding her own company. Instead of helping Mandy achieve her own independence, she binds Mandy to an unhappy marriage and an antiquated business. Nonetheless, Mandy runs the factory well and supports her self-proclaimed genius husband, Irad, the narcissistic, demanding bore acclaimed for inventing the spiral escalator. Their daughter, Lirit, is at loose ends, living with a judgmental, controlling organic farmer in an effort to avoid following in Mandy’s footsteps too soon. Worse, their son, Dael, an army sharpshooter, has returned to war. Eager to regain the limelight, Irad is working on special protective suits for the military. He is planning to visit an ex-Israeli scientist in America, Bahat McPhee, who (after discovering that Irad shares Rod Serling’s birthday) is eager to share her research. Taking advantage of Irad’s absence, Mandy schedules her eighth (not counting her nose job) cosmetic surgery procedure. She’s become addicted to the numb bliss of anesthesia and the distracting pain of recovery, both of which dull her fears for Dael’s safety. Her surgeon, flying in from Dresden, will implant new shoulder blades. But when the surgery goes awry, everyone closely and distantly related to Mandy will feel the repercussions. Internationally acclaimed Castel-Bloom (Human Parts, 2004, etc.)—whose Dolly City is listed by UNESCO’s Collection of Representative Works—deftly weaves a web of intertwining character studies, each rich with detail and nuance.
Against the backdrop of war and unrest, the strivings of a woman for independence gain international depth.