‘Waking Lions’ is a contemporary thriller and morality tale

  • Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen (Little, Brown and Company) 2017. Translated by Sondra Silverston.
  • In 40 words or less: After a long night at work, Dr. Eitan Green decides to run his car in the desert. In the darkness, he hits an Eritrean man, leaving him to die. The repercussions go far beyond one man, his family or community.
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Locale: Beer Sheva, Israel
  • Time: Contemporary
  • Gundar-Goshen’s novel pushes the boundaries of genre and could take place in many countries where refugees illegally cross borders in desperation.

“A writer is like a pickpocket: they want what belongs to others and make it their own. But by doing that they are inevitably caught, not by the police, but by their own story.” Ayelet Gundar-Goshen in a guest post for the blog The ProsenPeople

Ayelet Gundar-Goshen grabs the reader from page one and never lets go. Eitan Green is a rising star neurosurgeon in Tel Aviv when he gets on the wrong side of his mentor and is “exiled” to Beer Sheva, a far less prestigious placement. After a rough night, he decides to take his new SUV for a drive in the desert before going home to his wife Liat, a police detective, and his two sons. The road is dark, empty and wide open – until it’s not. Eitan hits a man, stops and realizes the injuries will be fatal. Recognizing that the man is Eritrean, and likely a refugee, Eitan makes a split second decision that nothing can be done for the man but his life likely will be destroyed if he stays.

Come morning there is a knock at the door. An Eritrean woman is holding Eitan’s wallet, dropped at the scene. Eitan is prepared to pay to keep the secret from the authorities and his wife. The price of silence is far more than money, his medical expertise and time. And so the coverup begins.

Gundar-Goshen’s training in psychology serves her well as she reveals the inner voices of Eitan, Liat, and Sirkit, the victim’s widow, each at different points in the novel. Eitan’s relocation to the desert was due to trying to maintain the moral high ground. Now, he is perpetually juggling, lying to his wife, lying to his colleagues, trying to keep up with the demands of a double life.

Liat, very accomplished but still a woman in a man’s world has to keep proving herself at work. At the same time, she is shouldering almost all the burden at home.  Eitan and Liat have always stood strong together and the changes are very unsettling.

Sirkit is an enigma. Seemingly untouched by grief, she redirects her energy into securing medical help for other refugees under cover of night.  Her story, both past and present, is far more complex.

Waking Lions is built layer upon layer. With each layer, more people and more questions of right and wrong, good and evil, are involved. Intricately interwoven are the deceptions that can destroy a marriage, the vulnerability of refugees, and the exploitative exercise of power. A New York Times notable book in 2017 and recipient of other accolades, this is an ideal read for individuals or groups who wrestle with issues of so prevalent today.

 

 

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Ending the book review hiatus

hiatus (noun) hī-ā-tus

According to Merriam Webster, a hiatus is “an interruption in time or continuity breakespecially a period when something (such as a program or activity) is suspended or interrupted “

Well, my reviewing hiatus is coming to an end.

If you’ve been following my posts and reviews, you may have noticed the silence over the last few months. It’s not that I haven’t been reading, but I’ve been reading differently. The political and social storms of the last year have taken over the conversation – at the dinner table and wherever people gather. The book groups I work with have been similarly affected by political overload.

Living just outside the beltway, the past year hasn’t been measured from January 1, 2017, to January 1, 2018, rather from the inauguration/women’s march to the government shutdown. The events of the year have led to new involvement and activism, and the expectation of daily upheavals of one variety or another.

Not surprisingly, in the book world, some of the emerging themes dovetail with current events. Harrowing stories of immigration and survival appear weekly as memoirs and fiction. Each has the power to put a human face on very difficult issues, particularly for readers who may have little contact with immigrant communities. Racism, assimilation, and America’s economic and cultural divide are also common topics. While I have added a number of these to my to-be-read lists, reading them while absorbing the news is often just too hard.

So what have I been reading? In addition to books for group discussions, I’ve upped my reading of “comfort books”. For me, it’s a combination of historical mysteries and new books that are getting buzz in newspapers and online, though I’m steering clear of “ripped from the headlines” themes. Look for posts on the following titles over the next few weeks as I start reducing the backlog:

  • Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen
  • Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig
  • Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance – a view one year later
  • Y is for Yesterday, an appreciation of Sue Grafton

Out of gratitude for your patience as I worked through this, I’m including a link to end of the year top book picks from a variety of sources. Bookreporter.com is one of my go-to sources for future book group choices. Here is  Bookreporter.com’s compilation of 2017 Best Books lists.

So when next we’re in touch, please let me know what you are reading. I’ll happily share what I’m carrying in my bag!

 

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