A MAN AND A WOMAN AND A MAN by Savyon Liebrecht
Kirkus Star

A MAN AND A WOMAN AND A MAN

KIRKUS REVIEW

Debut novel by an author who’s already established herself as one of Israel's finest writers.

In the introduction to the Liebrecht’s selected stories (published here as Apples From the Desert, 1998), Lilly Rattok noted that the author had completed two novels that had gone unpublished before she began to write stories. Now, her first novel to see the light reveals her to have mastered the long form as surely as she has the short. The narrative here is as straightforward as its title: while visiting her mother Shifra in a Tel Aviv nursing home, a married woman named Hamutal becomes intrigued by a man in a green jacket. Saul, an Israeli now living in Chicago, has come to see his father, whose room is across the hall from Shifra’s. The visitors meet, share coffee, and become involved in a fleeting affair that can last no longer than the lives of their dying parents. Although Hamutal deludes herself that it may be otherwise, the lovers clearly must part when there is no longer a reason for one of them to go to the nursing home. Eventually, Saul's father dies and he returns to Chicago, leaving Hamutal to grapple with her marital problems and her mother's increasing dementia. Finally, Shifra too dies. In the hands of a less astute writer, this story would be soap opera not unlike the soporific Claude Lelouch film to which its title alludes. But Liebrecht handles the material with a sureness of tone and a sensitivity of feeling that make it resonate powerfully. The novel takes an agonizing emotional toll but finishes with a flourish of hardheaded realism that mercifully defies negative expectations. It is aided immeasurably by Pomerantz's sure-footed translation.

A major voice in Israeli fiction is emerging here.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-89255-266-2
Page count: 256pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2001




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