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

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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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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