An Israeli with Romanian ancestry charts her own and her extended family’s history in an unsettling split-screen narrative.
Below the surface of a character-heavy tale of migration, resettlement and young marriage, Frank riffs on character, fortune, roots and above all home. Her narrator, Rina, is both a child amid a colorful group of impoverished immigrants in Haifa and the young woman who falls in love with a Spanish architect whose wealthy family she visits in Barcelona. Alternating between first- and third-person voices, the story is delivered in discrete installments a little like short stories. First-person Rina describes life in an overcrowded apartment block abandoned by Arabs where she grows up among quirky relatives in the shadow of her older, smarter sister. Rina’s adult story, delineated in an unanalytical authorial voice, is a numb account of failed romance: the wooing, the wedding, the pregnancy and the birth of an acutely ill child whose care needs come to dominate the relationship. As the book closes, its two strands may have reached proximity, but the gulf between the early domestic episodes in Haifa, sometimes dark but usually animated and engaged, and the increasingly downbeat account of Rina’s marriage is never bridged.
Near-sighted and oddly uninviting.