Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant
|Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Louise Laurie|
|Summary: This is the story of three very different Americans, spending some time in Israel. The Palestinian/Israeli dilemma is writ large here with its accompanying violence, fear - and religion.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 253||Date: September 2011|
|Publisher: W W Norton|
|External links: Author's website|
Religion kicks off this book, even before the first page. The title is from a passage from the Book of Ruth. The only female central character, Yona is travelling from her home in America to visit her sister and large family. She's not really looking forward to it. She's nervous. The two sisters live very different lives and haven't seen each other for a decade. Leegant tells us all about the massive rift in their relationship.
We start to get a flavour of the ever-present officialdom and red tape. As Yona goes through customs, she's asked countless questions pertaining to her visit. Anyone would think she was a terrorist. As she's complying an Arab person (male, female, we don't know) is already being removed from the queue. The tension is palpable.
Yona is a modern woman living a modern, carefree life in New York. Her current love interest, Elias can't believe she'd want to travel to the troubled Middle East. Elias would no more want to go back to Israel than he would Iran. Primitive. Run by a bunch of farmers. And at this point I started to appreciate Leegant's refreshing style of writing.
This sense of fear continues beyond the airport. Even when Leegant describes something as simple as a local taxi ride, this fear is there in spades. I could feel it coming off the page at times. I could sense the sweat between the shoulder blades of innocent locals going about their business. And as I was reading all of this, the fact that these issues are currently news items, give this book extra depth. It only served to heighten my reading experience. In fact, the novel's front cover blurb says that this book is Timely ... I would most certainly agree.
Yona reaches her destination with the words Baruch haba which translates to Welcome to Israel ringing in her ears. As she looks around, she's flabbergasted, almost speechless. Clearly the area is not what she's been expecting. It looked like a planned community in Florida. What a wonderful description I thought and I had no problem conjuring up an image. Albeit the bus was bulletproof.
One of the two male central characters, Mark Greenglass, also has family issues. Unresolved ones, just like Yona. He's bright, intelligent and articulate. He's also a bit jaded with his life at the moment. Could this journey of his be a crossroads? He's only in his thirties. What's gone wrong? He's travelled back to New York to visit his ageing parents. The family is relaxed about their Jewish roots - They had long ago stopped wrestling over the kosher business. Mark used to take drugs, big-time but is now clean. As Mark is a teacher we are treated to quite a number of interesting debates and discussions. Religion, American and Israel (not necessarily in that order though) rear their thorny heads.
And the youngest of the main characters, Aaron appears to be the most troubled out of the trio. Not to mince words, he is deeply, deeply troubled. Politics seem to get him going, almost frothing at the mouth - and then some. This is an extremely thought-provoking book. Recommended.
If this book appeals then you might like to try To the End of the Land by David Grossman.
You can read more book reviews or buy Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant at Amazon.com.
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