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In The Last Long Journey (1969), Cleeve calibrated the flux and flow of confused loyalties and obligations in a raj-English/Indian relationship; here he traces, with the same quiet, unsentimental attention, a mesh of coincidental relationships between several Arabs and Jews in Israel after the 1967 war. There's a final tragedy--but also a thin note of hope for the persistence of humanity's better nature in small victories of reconciliation within the shadows of world conflict. Young, idealistic kibbutznik sabra Ben Avner returns to the site of the isolated house he had destroyed with a grenade when the Israeli troops had swept by. After the victory, exultation gone, and remembering the misery of the homeless Arab family, Ben now insists on rebuilding the house. Ben's initially refused and disdained gesture of reconciliation forces action--based on ancient enmities and diverse loyalties--among the intermingled families and fortunes of four daughters of Jerusalem: gentle Jamila, daughter of Ibrahim Hariri, a Christian Arab whose home Ben had destroyed, and who, it turns out, had been a friend of Ben's dead father; Leah, a middle-aged civil servant, separated from husband Sam, and someone who tries in vain to befriend and help Douad, Jamila's teen-aged brother, whose hatred of Jews leads him to terrorism and murder; Rachel, Ben's bitter mother, who is appalled when Ben announces he will marry Jamila; and attractive Saffiyah, assistant to Sam, bullied into a courier role for El Fatah--the terrorist group to which Douad is drawn. Driven to frightening decisions, individuals struggle with others and themselves within their cultures and circumstances. Jamila's sheltered husband-centered decorum is at odds with the clangorous democracy of Ben's kibbutz; Leah cannot understand why maternal warmth for the teen-aged Douad produces rage rather than gratitude. It all ends with a funeral, where Arab and Jewish grandparents hold an infant granddaughter before they part forever, and in the aftermath of tragedy, there is--within their various family members--a new peace. No fictional fireworks here--but Cleeve has a potent grasp of the common attitudes of a variety of combatants within cultures in conflict.

Pub Date: March 12th, 1986
Publisher: Adler & Adler--dist. by Harper & Row