Wallace’s debut novel tells the story of three characters grappling with the complexities of life in Israel.
In chapters with alternating points of view, the novel follows the entwined lives of the three protagonists: Noa Kagan, the American-educated scientist who finds out about the death of her soldier son in the 2006 war in southern Lebanon; Gavri Gilboa, a friend of Noa’s who has been in love with her since childhood and devoted his life to the Israeli army; and Alan Ruskin, a Jewish-American journalist working for Reuters. Grief-stricken to the point of desperation, kibbutz-raised Noa uses both men to extract vengeance on the Israeli state. When Gavri’s impotence dispels her, she seduces weak-willed Alan by leaking a secret about new nuclear technology being developed in Israel. Despite the difficulties it may cause his career, Alan files the story; the fallout sends him and Noa into hiding at his beach home in Ibiza. Gavri follows. Most compelling in this novel is the gradual unveiling of each character’s evolving mental state. Noa’s madness becomes clearer and clearer, as does Gavri’s. A final meeting of the friends results in a tragedy that illustrates several issues with the ideals for which they stand, but Alan’s ultimate transformation tempers the tragedy with hope. Although the novel aims for objectivity and a nuanced complexity in its depiction of Israel, a few overly convenient coincidences and the rapidly moving plot instead depict a surreal country. Ultimately, readers may find this version of Israel an ideal setting for the book’s tightly woven, sometimes confusing plot.
Clear prose, fast-paced, dramatic storytelling lend this novel its inherent readability, though readers shouldn’t look for anything more than a good story.