A story collection confidently and intriguingly connecting relationships to their locations.
All but the title story in Israeli author Liebrecht’s collection (A Man and a Woman and a Man, 2001, etc.) bear the name of a city or a country. In the opener, “America,” the narrator describes her mother’s departure for the U.S. with another woman’s husband and his newborn baby daughter. The two girls, allies and enemies, meet a handful of times, but only after most of the parents are dead does a truth emerge that rearranges the entire emotional landscape. This rich scenario introduces themes that will reappear elsewhere: orphaned and damaged children, long-contained anger and pain, family bonds. “Hiroshima” also makes fertile use of a delicate set-up, Idit’s move to Japan when her relationship with Natan stalls. In a foreign city, she learns lessons about another Holocaust and about the opacity of cross-cultural involvements. Liebrecht’s choices of location often carry historical and emotional baggage, and several of her protagonists are the offspring of Holocaust survivors. “Munich” depicts neo-Nazi violence against Muslims, drawing political parallels with Kristallnacht. “Jerusalem” tellingly moves between the present, with Idit tensely returning from Hiroshima to her old home and love, and the past, in which a historical figure gives voice to the city’s spiritual aspect while signaling the imminent destruction of the Temple. A warm and empathetic intelligence informs this book, fluently translated by Silverstein. Only a taste of melodrama occasionally mars its sensitivity, as in “Kibbutz,” which shows kibbutzniks abusing two mentally disabled members of the group. The concluding, post-apocalyptic title story is set in a nameless place where new family connections are being painfully forged and tenderness exists alongside a more brutal pragmatism.
Accessible, perceptive fiction from a talented writer.