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


Page Count: -

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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

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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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