- 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.