A valuable, energetic book for anyone interested in moving beyond the narrowly constructed terms that often define debate...

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The Wall, The Mount, and the Mystery of the Red Heifer

A nearly unclassifiable work of fiction that combines invented memoirs, political essays, and legal briefs into a multifaceted vision of modern-day Israel.

Public discourse today revolving around Israel tends to fracture into hopelessly binary absolutes, valorizing or demonizing the nation. Silverman’s first book unfurls the tangled cultural yarn that makes Israel such a unique state, simultaneously progressive and atavistic. The work begins as a memoir of sorts, with Janet Levin, the primary but not only narrator, reflecting on her efforts to win women the right to pray at the religiously significant Western Wall in Jerusalem, a practice traditionally prohibited by the more theologically orthodox. Her activism is framed as secular in ambition, wrenching the reins of freedom away from a single religious class, but also spiritual insofar as the goal is to preserve the right of all Jews to pray equally, to participate in Jewish identity. The remainder of the book is loosely structured around this contentious issue, allowing both those for and against women at the Western Wall to speak reasonably and articulately for their respective sides. Levin’s feminist position is countered by the conservatism of Chaim Elan, the head of the Ministry of Religious Services, and Solomon Grossman, a lawyer for the Israeli Justice Department who represents traditionalist opponents. Others, like Rabbi Dov Batev, make a case, both political and religious, for equal access to the Western Wall. In a startling turn, Farhad Ghorbani, the head of the Iranian Intelligence Services, also gets a turn at fictional narration, exploring both his nation’s enmity for Israel and the surprising possibilities for détente. Levin’s breezy, conversational style and her commentary on her personal life add some helpful levity as a counterpoint to the book’s necessary gravity: “Hello again. A lot has happened since you heard from me. On the personal front, number two agreed to a divorce. He met a tschila and fell in love. Once he had a toy to play with, he agreed to release me. If I had only known that was the stumbling block, I’d have introduced him to dozens of tschilas.” In moments like this, author Silverman manages to combine daring artistic eclecticism with sober, political meditation.

A valuable, energetic book for anyone interested in moving beyond the narrowly constructed terms that often define debate about Israel.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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