In Pakravan’s (Azadi, 2011, etc.) latest novel, celebration and confusion erupt when an unprecedented moratorium on death, violence and crime occurs in the United States.
In a series of intriguing scenes, characters escape near-death (or near-crime) events either due to luck or to someone unexpectedly changing his or her mind. For example, a criminal at an ATM decides to let his victim go, and a suicidal woman feels that she’d rather spend a few days with her grandson than kill herself. One after another, changes of heart and of fate crop up across the country: A car full of drunken teenagers barely evades what would have been a fatal crash; a group of skinheads inexplicably decides not to defecate on a Torah scroll in a synagogue; and abusive fathers and husbands let their wives and children off the hook. Pakravan engagingly shifts the narrative at 15-, 30-, and 60-minute intervals from one character’s plight to the next, with each story giving a glimpse into the characters’ lives, thoughts, emotions and grudges. At each new hour of this mysterious “truce,” readers will likely sit up in their seats to see what new tragedy is averted and how. In one scene, a religious man changes his mind about killing an abortion doctor, saying, “A light came into my heart, I don’t know how to explain it. Suddenly, I wasn’t sure about anything, but that was okay.” In another scene, James, who earlier decided not to hurt the man at the ATM, reflects, “How long since he had felt so clean inside, like his heart was beating for the right reasons?” When police, hospitals and media figure out what is going on—that no crime has been committed, and no one has died (or even given birth) anywhere in the country—other people who were about to commit crimes instead actively decide to “Keep the Truce.” It produces an eerie calm in police stations and emergency rooms, as average citizens, as well as experts on crime, history and religion, speculate on why this has happened, how and how long it will last. Simple, yet substantive writing gently propels the story, which will appeal both to the skeptical and optimistic readers in equal measure. With the pacing of a whodunit and the idealism of a fable, the story counts down the hours on the day of this strange truce.
An elegantly written book about the prospects for hope and forgiveness.