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Kashner, as in Bed Rest (1981), writes with an acrid, show-off intensity--this time probing tragic parental legacies in Israel, 1950-1973. According to ancient religious law, a bastard child can never sire legitimate Jewish offspring--a taint that carries through the tenth generation. And Daniel will be such a child, thanks to his mother Rachaeli, who wants something that is ""only hers."" Her husband Dov seems to have appropriated their two sons for himself--so, manipulating both Dov and her lover Yossi, Racheli causes a scandal but has her way: Dani is officially a ""bastard,"" never to live in Dov's house or Yossi's, or be acknowledged by either. Instead, Dani will become a foster-son to Rachaeli's hospital roommate Chava, an Auschwitz survivor along with her guilt-ridden mother Anni. Chava's husband Shlomo neglects his own son, while doting on fatherless Dani--the handsome one, well-liked, flaunting his unique status, performing magic tricks, a ""big star"". . . but always apart. Later both Aaron and Dani are happy in the army--where Dani is a natural leader and Aaron is released from domestic surveillance. But Dani will gradually, steadily draw apart from Rachaeli; as an adult, he denounces her as the one responsible for his being ""bounced off sideways from the people. Unclaimed, unidentified. . . I'm a dead end."" Only later--with the love of artist Ronit, a father's role in supervising a neglected kid, and danger-and-death camaraderie in the Yom Kippur War--will Dani find the root essentials of familial love; he'll also find the momentum to carry him forth from his ""dead end"" corner. Unfortunately, the intricate mesh of ethnic/familial commitments here is exploited rather than explored: the characters seem to function more as statements than as full-blooded actors in Israel's volatile ancient/modern culture. Glowering, fevered, and noisy with preachment, then--but the religious conflicts and the war action (taut, crisp) may attract some of the Israel-issues readership.

Pub Date: Oct. 9th, 1984
Publisher: Putnam