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På flykt från ett sorgebud

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Den unge israelen Ofer har just avslutat sin värnplikt och hans mor Ora gläder sig åt att få hem honom. Men Ofer återgår frivilligt till militärtjänsten eftersom det blir spänt läge i landet igen. Ora blir förtvivlad och står inte ut med att vara hemma utan drar med sig sin ungdomsvän Avram på en fotvandring genom Galileen. Under vandringen berättar hon för Avram om sitt Den unge israelen Ofer har just avslutat sin värnplikt och hans mor Ora gläder sig åt att få hem honom. Men Ofer återgår frivilligt till militärtjänsten eftersom det blir spänt läge i landet igen. Ora blir förtvivlad och står inte ut med att vara hemma utan drar med sig sin ungdomsvän Avram på en fotvandring genom Galileen. Under vandringen berättar hon för Avram om sitt och familjens liv, som är nära förbundet med hans. Samtidigt besvärjer hon sig för en annalkande katastrof - och gör sig onåbar för det bud från armén som hon fruktar så. Alla de viktiga händelserna i romanen sker när Israel ligger i krig och under hela berättelsen bultar oron för sonen. På flykt från ett sorgebud är en stor roman om det moderna Israel från 1967 och framåt, skildrat genom en kvinnas kärlek till två män och sina två söner.


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Den unge israelen Ofer har just avslutat sin värnplikt och hans mor Ora gläder sig åt att få hem honom. Men Ofer återgår frivilligt till militärtjänsten eftersom det blir spänt läge i landet igen. Ora blir förtvivlad och står inte ut med att vara hemma utan drar med sig sin ungdomsvän Avram på en fotvandring genom Galileen. Under vandringen berättar hon för Avram om sitt Den unge israelen Ofer har just avslutat sin värnplikt och hans mor Ora gläder sig åt att få hem honom. Men Ofer återgår frivilligt till militärtjänsten eftersom det blir spänt läge i landet igen. Ora blir förtvivlad och står inte ut med att vara hemma utan drar med sig sin ungdomsvän Avram på en fotvandring genom Galileen. Under vandringen berättar hon för Avram om sitt och familjens liv, som är nära förbundet med hans. Samtidigt besvärjer hon sig för en annalkande katastrof - och gör sig onåbar för det bud från armén som hon fruktar så. Alla de viktiga händelserna i romanen sker när Israel ligger i krig och under hela berättelsen bultar oron för sonen. På flykt från ett sorgebud är en stor roman om det moderna Israel från 1967 och framåt, skildrat genom en kvinnas kärlek till två män och sina två söner.

30 review for På flykt från ett sorgebud

  1. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    This book was WONDERFUL UPDATE: 5 years later: *August 2015* A friend 'Liked' this review yesterday. My body felt frozen - I had to remember to breath. Honestly, I have never been more 'shocked' -'frozen' with an ending to a book than this one. I was a mess. It was not a happy ending--but I still had no idea --NONE --of what I was about to discover. I was devastated. At first I couldn't move --then I cried -then I couldn't move some more. I remember at some point going up to the trails, alone, for This book was WONDERFUL UPDATE: 5 years later: *August 2015* A friend 'Liked' this review yesterday. My body felt frozen - I had to remember to breath. Honestly, I have never been more 'shocked' -'frozen' with an ending to a book than this one. I was a mess. It was not a happy ending--but I still had no idea --NONE --of what I was about to discover. I was devastated. At first I couldn't move --then I cried -then I couldn't move some more. I remember at some point going up to the trails, alone, for a long needed walk. I can't say with confidence that this book is for everyone -any longer --(I thought so at one time). I use to recommend it to others by saying: "JUST READ IT". DO NOT READ REVIEWS...DO NOT READ ANYTHING about the author..DO NOT read the blurp..JUST READ IT! (which is still my first choice way to recommend it) .....but I've now read several reviews. Many people found the 'start' slow...and it never picked up for them. I didn't at all. I was intrigued with the dialogue. It begins in a hospital. At the 'very' start, you don't know the ages of the characters, why they are there, or even what country they are in. It begins in the middle of the night. In the middle of the book... There is a VERY LONG WALK... Two people walking and talking.... If you are a person --who has a deep appreciation for walking in the woods with one other person ---none of this may feel slow to you....(it didn't me) .... However --if you are looking for ACTION -- this isn't THAT book... I suppose this is either a book you LIKE --or you DON'T LIKE ---(not much of a 'middle-of-the-road' type book). For me...I was engaged with the entire journey --and the complications between two men and a woman. I didn't deeply hurt until the end, which still hurts 5 years later. (less intense, but I can still feel sadness) Most --I guess, I want to thank my friend...Debbie... for 'LIKING' my one sentence review yesterday. I'm guessing she may understand.... ........some books hurt like losing and old friend.... ........re-visiting those same books again years later --can breath new fresh life into us. This has happened to me!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mariel

    (Sorry for the reposting and then taking down and then reposting. This book I feel I owe something to...) You cannot point out a star to someone without putting your other hand on his shoulder. David Grossman wrote To The End Of The Land while his second eldest son was serving in the military. He wrote the novel as if doing so would protect him. It didn't save his life. The quote from the New York Times Book Review on the cover says "One of those few novels that feels as though they have made a (Sorry for the reposting and then taking down and then reposting. This book I feel I owe something to...) You cannot point out a star to someone without putting your other hand on his shoulder. David Grossman wrote To The End Of The Land while his second eldest son was serving in the military. He wrote the novel as if doing so would protect him. It didn't save his life. The quote from the New York Times Book Review on the cover says "One of those few novels that feels as though they have made a difference to the world." I don't know about what the world feels because I can only pick out some and the rest is a blinding mass of noise. It did to me. I feel at a great disadvantage here because I don't know if any book has ever meant this much to me. What hyperbole can I possibly say that is bigger than that? (I like that my friend Tuck's review says that TTEOTL is "absolutely necessary". If only I were so succint!) What are the true power of words? Can any thing redeem life or humanity? To The End Of The Land changed shadowy shapes in my eyes so many times before I had finished reading it. Is it a book about people who do try to redeem themselves through others or is it the shame of being human? The culpability that we all share for living. Sleeping at night while someone else is sent to die "for you" (so they say. I wouldn't ask it of Jesus or anyone else and still it happens). People in prison to stimulate the economy and trees felled to wipe our butts. You don't ask and the shit rolls down hill all the same. Hell, to have children in Israel where they very likely will die. Raising your kid to be their fodder. Israeli news that rejoices in martyrdom and if you cry for yourself as a mother you are not mother earth. The us versus them and the proverbial wool that people can and will pull over their own eyes to get through the day. The like a lie spinning out of control sides of the wire fence. Is it fair to get used to things? Grossman wrote this mother, Ora, who is doing what he is doing when writing his book: trying to save her son by telling about him through stories. She also represents some pretty callous things. She unthinkingly asks their Arab driver, Sami, to escort her and her son when she has to say goodbye to him on the front. Unthinkable! Yet she does it, because she thinks of him as her friend (and the ripped cord that she yanks on so blindly to get it back... Yet could I judge her? For not facing up to what shouldn't be?). Or is it in denial of the lives they lead? She may have lost her family because she couldn't accept that they have seemed to swallow (without a stick in the throat) the hard military life of Israel. The world where a man can be forgotten about in a meat cooler for two days. You're here to get bombed on instead of the civilians in town. But is she so different? How much has she changed from the young girl she is in the beginning of the book to the old woman (well, I didn't think of her as old, actually. She thinks of herself as old is the main thing) at a loss to lay down lamb to slaughter or is it lions to slaughter? I never can tell. When is tearing it all through your mind and all that really redemptive? Ofer volunteers for an assignment after his three years of mandatory service are over. Every deal, charm, prayer and what have you have been used up. Ora runs to the hills for a hike so that, for at least one month, she will not know if her son is dead. Ofer's birth father, Avram, has lived as if there was no difference between life or death for twenty-two years after he was tortured as a prisoner of war. He refused to acknowledge the existence of his son. No word and no face, at least that he will admit to. There are tell tale signs of carved markings identifying his time served on the wall in the dump where he lives (although maybe not such a half life that he will admit to. He also gravitates towards those who will redeem his life for him with his young artist girlfriend and the free spirits in the restaurant and their glory tales of trips to India). Ora needs to bring her son to life for him so that Offer will be kept safe between them. If the worst happens there will be someone left in Israel who knows him. She needs to talk about her son to answer her own questions about if she really knew Ofer, or if she was an "unnatural mother" as her estranged eldest son, Adam, told her. Her husband, Avram's once best friend, has left the country with Adam. She broke the code by reminding them of what they cannot change? Was she in the wrong to expect that her son Ofer be the hero that others are not? To save the world for her? Through their talks in the Galilee as they hike it is a mystery of stories making up a person for Avram and reassuring or enlightening for Ora. They were a family so he has to hear about all of them. The questions that he asks are hints to the relationship that Ora, Avram and Ilan had as teenagers, lovers and best friends. It is really incredible to me the way that Grossman brought these people out as a family just by how they talked about each other, what they didn't want to talk about and the doubts and joys. The guilt in if that was the right thing to do, or if maybe you're loved one was never as open with you as you had wanted. If it is too late to imagine it all now... (Yes, I have read other books about this recently. The Nephew by James Purdy, We Disappear by Scott Heim, and Garden, Ashes by Danilo Kis. I didn't even do it on purpose. I must have an uncanny knack for finding books about this. I am also scared of what is going to be too late and of losing a life to an untrustworthy memory. I'm afraid of carrying that torch alone.) Once, when he used to look at her like that, she would immediately open herself to him, allowing him to see inside her like that. Not even Ilan. But she was always easy with Avram- such a horrible word, "easy"; she was always easy with Avram, letting him see all of her, almost from the first moment she met him, because she had a feeling, a conviction that there was something inside her, or someone, perhaps an Ora more loyal to her own essence, more precise and less vague, and Avram seemed to have a way to reach her. He was the only one who could truly know her and could pollinate her with his look, with his very existence, and without him she simply did not exist, she had no life, and so she was his, she was his prerogative. Did Ilan try to be his lost friend and lose the part that was just himself when he gave up on life and he raised his son with Ora? The way that Ora never feels at ease in her motherhood, the moment of knowing the right thing to do never comes. She yells at them and there's four years when Ilan bails on Ora and Adam completely (before her son with Avram is born). Was she ever the Ora that Ilan and Avram loved? Before I decided not to read any reviews of TTEOTL (in case I felt too stupid to write my own review) I read a line that Ora was unlikeable. I thought David Grossman knew exactly what he was doing. Avram, too, is hard headed. Ilan forces himself to be on the line. Ora feels she cannot keep up in the witty discussions with the men (her sons included). My heart kind of tugged for her. She can only be herself, even if that self is someone she feels not up to it. It might sound cheesey if I write about it in a review but what the hey. This is the part when little Ofer becomes a vegetarian. "And all at once his face sealed up, locked, like this" - she shows him, tightly clenching her fist- "and then he ran all the way down the hallway, from the bathroom to the kitchen, and kicked me. Just imagine, he'd never done that before! He kicked my leg as hard as he could and screamed: 'You're like wolves! People like wolves! I don't want to be with you!'" He turns the other way around when he is sixteen. Ora wonders if he wasn't trying to become the opposite of who he once was, the skinny sensitive boy, in favor of masculine and meat. I like that we don't know for sure so much. Ora suspects. We get to see Ofer through her eyes and then a little through how Avram sees him from what she says. I think that's such a wonderful way of showing about people. You get to know so much about them that way. It's not just an author listing off some qualities like intelligent or mean or something. This hurt her. He turned his back on who she thought he was, as Avram asks? I wondered myself if maybe she didn't feel like he joined "sides" of the shitty humans and she regrets that. Oh, I love this. Ora says he allowed himself to be more sensitive with the girlfriend who would leave him. She feels they aren't soft with her. Maybe it isn't enough for her, I think, because she still can't accept herself. I see this in the way that she reveres their verbal back in forth, in her pining for a daughter to help them see her. Maybe she's doing it all wrong by trying to do it too much through them. I love that sooooo much. I wondered why Ilan REALLY couldn't stay with his family when Adam was born. Did he reject her as a mother, did Avram do the same? Why could he put them on the course of day to day regulation and learning how to live in the world while she felt helpless to do so? Ora never admits it but I felt it was because she couldn't bear to go about day to day when it would lead to the front lines. She was in the army herself and she never talks about it. She gives up on her social work because it had to have been pointless to her. She gives up to live through them. Was it because of a story that Avram "gave" to Ilan to tell once he had lost "himself" in his prison tragedy? Parents leaving their newborns in the street, behind dumpsters, because they cannot handle the sorrow? In his story that he hadn't worked out people would have to figure out the exact meaning of everything that's happened to them. Avram didn't really know anything. "Well, there is one big issue I haven't completely solved yet," Avram murmured to himself, focused and distracted at once. "Will people dismantle all the frameworks of their lives, like their families, or will they want to leave everything just like it is right up to the last minute? What do you say? I'm also wondering if people will start telling each other nothing but the truth, right to their faces, 'cause time's running out, you know? There's no time." Or he did, there. The walking through the Galilee, on those trails that spoke in Arabic and in Hebrew (I don't know Hebrew so I wouldn't know the words. Maybe the sounds would mean something to me. All of that trying so hard and all of that refusing to listen)... It's the effort to think about it. I took away so much from this book that I could really beat myself up worrying about getting it all right (the part when Ora takes the bus for hours every day because the chance of a terrorist attack is how she can deal with her shame of letting down her family, in their eyes. Or is it also hers?). One thing that I think I really felt the most in the end was that you shouldn't try to redeem yourself through others all by yourself. The talking and walking and letting in the glimpses of old Avram and old Ora and new Avram and new Ora and bits and glimpses of their lives? It's freaking exhausting and too exhausted for them to try too hard to force it to have some meaning you were looking for it to have. Just remember Ofer and love him. What other kind of trust is there? I don't know. This is what I've got and I'm so grateful to have it. The rest of it I can't answer other than a sick feeling in my heart that no one ever asks for it and it happens anyway. I feel something in my gut like I could almost answer why Ofer didn't even want to read the news about Israel and yet would sink himself into their military culture. What other kinds of ignoring are there that Grossman could see? I have been a big David Grossman fan since 2005. See Under: Love and Someone to Run With are two of my favorite books ever (I had fully formed fantasies that I carried with me for that last one). I used to give my brother copies of his books years ago. He never would read him (his girlfriend at the time took pity on me and read it. She said she liked him). Once upon a time he called up to say that he had worshipped Watership Down and it was at the same time I had independently fell in love with Watership Down and my twin sister had also independently fell in love with Watership Down. We'd call and say "You have to read this book..." It doesn't last. (I didn't even mention the relationship between the two brothers. How one follows the other in some things and the other in others. The personalness of it and yet it is still so relateable for all that I have never been a young man.) Families are freaking hard. I could go on and on about the small truths that touched me about this book. How my cousin is in the army and how surprised some of my family were when he was sent off to Afghanistan (where he is now) after they had encouraged it for his whole life. How disturbed I feel when I remember that he said he couldn't wait to go kill Arabs. David Grossman must have watched all of these families to know so much (and having his own family too. I have no words for how I feel about him writing this book to save his son and he dies). I don't doubt that he feels so much about what he sees. To The End Of The Land is like some long walk and stories about humanity to try to keep it alive and save it and maybe it isn't so bad and no this is totally fucked up and was any of it worth it? It's about how hard it is to really look and not get used to it... I hope I managed to get some of it across how much I love this book. I don't know what this rambling review will mean to anyone else but damn this book is so precious to me. I never wanted to finish reading it. It's the kind of book that talks to me like I'm a real human being and the kind of book that I always wish other books were. And I didn't even get to read it in its original language. I wonder why so many of my special favorites are works in translations again... This is another life as translated book like through eyes of people around you. Jessica Cohen translated. She's translated some of the other Grossman novels that I've read (I've read a lot. I went on a big binge late 2005-early 2006 and I am not kidding about this).

  3. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    At first I struggled a bit with this book: it took me more than 80 pages to get into the story, but what followed after that was unparalleled and heart breaking. Why did I love this book? 1. With Ora as his protagonist Grossman has sketched a "big", primeval woman: mother, lover, mistress at the same time. That sounds silly and of course very gender-coloured, I know, but this character really captivated me. Ora is powerful, hypersensitive, very obsessed with life, but often also very weak, blind, At first I struggled a bit with this book: it took me more than 80 pages to get into the story, but what followed after that was unparalleled and heart breaking. Why did I love this book? 1. With Ora as his protagonist Grossman has sketched a "big", primeval woman: mother, lover, mistress at the same time. That sounds silly and of course very gender-coloured, I know, but this character really captivated me. Ora is powerful, hypersensitive, very obsessed with life, but often also very weak, blind, and insensitive. What attracted me especially in her is how her feelings express themselves physically, coming from a deep source, suddenly, without being able to control them. 2. The male types (her 'men' Ilan and Avram, - yes, a love triangle - and her sons Adam and Ofer) are apparently very different and yet very similar; they all have great issues with reality; but the interaction between them is sparkling, challenging and at the same time sometimes frustrating, because they exclude Ora for a large part. 3. The almost physical-mental struggle of Ora, Ilan and Avram with parenting is definitely one of the strengths in this book; with a lot of details Grossman (especially through the story-telling Ora) describes the intense bond between the three parents and their children and their sometimes almost morbid worries; I have to admit that this touched a very sensitive string for me: the feeling that something as powerful as a life bond between father/mother and son/daughter is so strong and at the same time so precarious, so quickly disintegrated... Grossman has put that beautifully into words. 4. The war and terror theme and especially the very concrete setting in the Israeli-Palestinian context of course is a very strong element, with the constant threat and mistrust between people (“us" and "them”); it is actually the first time that I have felt so strongly about the existential fear of the Israelis, while Grossman at the same time provides enough elements that also stress the other side (the Arab-Palestinian one). This also includes the aspect of the horrors of the war and the terror, evoked especially in the hallucinatory scenes in Sinai during the Yom Kippur war of 1973. 5. The walking theme: more than 4/5th of this book takes place while Ora together with her youth lover Avram crisscross the Galilee region, manically driven by their fear of what is happening with their son Ofer, who is now serving (by his own choice) as a soldier. It is clear that the hiking theme here is a flight, Ora just doesn’t want to be home to receive the “death message” (and she firmly believes that by running away Ofer is protected), but at the same time the hike also is a discovery, because while walking she reveals a lot about her past, about Ofer and rediscovers the special relationship she had with Avram 21 years ago. There are so many other elements I could enumerate to illustrate the strength of this novel, but I guess you get the picture. Just some remarks on the weaker sides then: 1. The long intro, especially the first 50 pages in the hospital, where you actually do not know what is happening (though perhaps in a second reading everything will fall into place) was a tough read 2. The stories of Ora about her family life are sometimes quite spun out, with lots of details about the complex interaction between her and Ilan, between Adam and Ofer, and so on; who owns a family will recognize a lot in all those small, seemingly futile and at the same time enchanting details, but I can surely understand that people drop out here 3. The very long passage, around 4/5th into the book, about how Avram during the Yom Kippur war in 1973 was isolated in a bunker in the Sinai and through the radio emitted all sorts of observations, brilliant and crazy statements: here Grossman really went too far, especially because it is so artificial, since it is Ora who is telling all this to Avram (who does not remember), while she got the information from Ilan 20 years earlier. 4. the ending does not reveal anything on the fate of Ofer; so there is no real 'plot' of the story; on the contrary: the reader is left rather confused (probably Grossman did that on purpose). Anyway: the wonderful thing about this book is that Grossman has presented us very lifelike, fragile people who are searching and struggling, loving and fleeing, to find their way in life; is it too far-fetched to call these biblical figures? There’s another reviewer I would like to quote who aptly expresses my feelings on this book: “To The End Of The Land is like some long walk and stories about humanity to try to keep it alive and save it and maybe it isn't so bad and no this is totally fucked up and was any of it worth it? It's about how hard it is to really look and not get used to it...” PS. I ignored the fact that Grossman’s younger son, Uri, was killed as a soldier in 2006, two years before the book was published. In an afterword the author states that this novel by then was almost completed, suggesting it didn’t influence the content of the story. I’m not so sure about that, but – as I stated – I choose to ignore this fact, even though it certainly adds a horrible aspect to the reading of this novel.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    ETA: I better add this. If you are looking for a sweet pat ending look elsewhere. This book does not have a fairy tale ending. I absolutely LOVE this book. Add some explosion claps. I have read about half. THIS is a love story. What kind of love? Love for your child, your first and your second. Love for your partner in life. Husband or someone else, doesn't matter. There is a really weird triangle love relationship, but the further and further I go into the book the more it all makes sense. And ETA: I better add this. If you are looking for a sweet pat ending look elsewhere. This book does not have a fairy tale ending. I absolutely LOVE this book. Add some explosion claps. I have read about half. THIS is a love story. What kind of love? Love for your child, your first and your second. Love for your partner in life. Husband or someone else, doesn't matter. There is a really weird triangle love relationship, but the further and further I go into the book the more it all makes sense. And by having a triangle relationship you can see, feel and experience again for yourself all the different emotions tied with love. Do you remember breastfeeding? Do you remember how you looked at the newborn right after delivery? Do you remember the first step and words and funny things your kids have done? They will not be exactly the same as those mentioned in this book but there has to be something wrong with you if you don't recall your own memories and feelings. How did a man write this? Sorry if I am prejudiced.... Superb writing! One minute you see a glint of light on a stone, marvel at a simile, are trying to understand your own philosophical approach or remembering your own experiences, and in the next sentence you are abruptly brought back to earth with a snide remark. Avram has one of his rare smiles, and Ora says, "Be careful it might stick." Avram is short, and Ora refers to his "peanut stature". I love the quick changes. You are continually snapped back to real life. Marvelous dialogs. I love the philosophical content. I love the writing. Damn, how many authors can capture what "love" is really about? All different kinds of love. Few authors can capture the inherent differences between how men and women think. WHY do other reviewers dislike Ora? Maybe I would not do what she does, because I simply do not have the courage, but I completely understand her. I admire her ability to do what she does. It is not at all as stupid as others say. Having now finished the book I still feel that it was fantastic, from start to finish. There was only one brief section, (view spoiler)[when Avram is stuck in a bunker all by himself and is soon to be taken POW, (hide spoiler)] when the philosophizing is laid on too thick. The latter half brings home with a punch how it has been to be an Israeli. The events carry the reader from the Six-Day War of 1967, through the Yom Kippur War of 1973 through to the suicide bombings that continue still today. How do these people look at life today? You understand that too by reading this book. If you are curious to understand more about the book please see the discussion below. I grew to very much appreciate Arthur Morey's narration of this excellent book, although it took me a while. This is the best book of fiction I have read this year! Its themes are love, family relationships and life in Israel. Fiction? The author knows what he is talking about. "Grossman began writing the novel in May 2003 when his oldest son Yonatan was serving in the Israeli Defense Forces and the book was largely complete by August 2006 when his younger son Uri was killed in the Second Lebanon War." (Wikipedia).

  5. 5 out of 5

    Celia

    David Grossman, one of Israel’s most acclaimed writers, has written a novel of extraordinary power about family life—the greatest human drama—and the cost of war. Three people meet in 1967, with injuries suffered in the Six Day War. Thirty three years later there is another war and the son of Ora has served his time but re-enlists. She leaves her home because she does not want to be there if THEY come (THEY would tell her that her son has been killed). She decides to leave home for a month-long David Grossman, one of Israel’s most acclaimed writers, has written a novel of extraordinary power about family life—the greatest human drama—and the cost of war. Three people meet in 1967, with injuries suffered in the Six Day War. Thirty three years later there is another war and the son of Ora has served his time but re-enlists. She leaves her home because she does not want to be there if THEY come (THEY would tell her that her son has been killed). She decides to leave home for a month-long hike and takes her once-lover Avram with her. From this vantage point she tells the story of her life with her husband Ilan and her two sons, Adam and Ofer. This book is all the more poignant because Grossman's son, Uri, died fighting a war in 2006. The book is long but well worth the read. I also listened to the audio spoken by Arthur Morey. 4.5 stars rounded up to 5

  6. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    I really struggled with this one, and to a certain extent I feel like I am giving four stars because respect must be paid, to Grossman as a novelist at the height of his powers using all his craft to create a formally perfect and emotionally searing masterpiece, to Grossman as a father who somehow managed to take some small piece of his loss and transform it into art, to Grossman as a rational thinking caring man in a place where rationality and caring are at best perilously endangered. And so I really struggled with this one, and to a certain extent I feel like I am giving four stars because respect must be paid, to Grossman as a novelist at the height of his powers using all his craft to create a formally perfect and emotionally searing masterpiece, to Grossman as a father who somehow managed to take some small piece of his loss and transform it into art, to Grossman as a rational thinking caring man in a place where rationality and caring are at best perilously endangered. And so respect is paid -- to Grossman and to his two towering creations: Ora, the feminine muse, the mother, all interiority (we experience so much of this novel inside her head, but also very literally inside her body and all the sensations that take place there), and Avram, who is really two himself, the logorrheic boy (and every Jewish kid in the world has been to summer camp with someone like Avram, brilliant and awkward and ugly and self-deprecating and caustic and savage) and the damaged man who has learned to live without ambition, desire or pain -- making a little world for himself with other imperfect souls and bits of trash (this Avram, this diminished but not dead life force is perhaps the strongest part of the novel, and Avram's tragedy so much more vivid and real than the plot points that come after). So much is brilliantly realized, and yet, I did struggle, because within this grand sweep (and I will accept the suspension of disbelief that creates monumental concidences and unnaturally detailed memory and dialogue that is monologue and all kinds of things that are not realism -- but this isn't realism, it's archetype, and myth), there are places where we just bog down. There are scenes minutely recounting the boys (the second set of boys, Ora's sons) as children, with tics, passions and manias, that seem to go on and on. And I was never sure what Grossman was trying to do with these scenes: convey the lumpy discomfort of family life that seems precious in retrospect? Pay homage to his dead son by making him live again through memory (because that is the book's central theme -- as befits a Jewish masterpiece -- memory as elegy but memory also as life force)? There seemed to be a deeper thread about the relationship between the two brothers, their apparent twinning of darkness and light, that never quite became real for me and never achieved the depth of feeling that I think Grossman wanted it to have. And there are times when you get frustrated with Ora, with (for all her maternal generosity) her persistent self-centered blindness to the pain of others -- to Sami's pain, to Avram's pain, to her sons' pain. Shut up and listen, you want to say, and maybe that's part of the point. But still intense and powerful -- particularly the scenes of that first hallucinatory nightmare day with Sami in his taxi with the (briefly) new upholstery, and as noted above, Avram's story and his arc.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    I actually wanted to re-read the ending before I wrote this review, I did and although it is not your proverbial happy ending, it is so very fitting. When one reads a book like this, a book that I would probably never had picked up unless one of my goodread friends had been reading it and just posting how much she was loving this book. It is so wonderful when this site does just these kind of things. This book is one that I will probably think about for a long time. We first meet the three main I actually wanted to re-read the ending before I wrote this review, I did and although it is not your proverbial happy ending, it is so very fitting. When one reads a book like this, a book that I would probably never had picked up unless one of my goodread friends had been reading it and just posting how much she was loving this book. It is so wonderful when this site does just these kind of things. This book is one that I will probably think about for a long time. We first meet the three main characters, Ora, Ilan and Avram when they are young teens, very ill and in a makeshift hospital. This is their beginning and ours as well. It is important that the reader understands the relationship between the three, it is crucial to the story and is the basis for much of what follows. That this book was written by a man just astounds me, because never have I read of a mother's love so eloquently stated. Trying to make bargains with fate, anything to keep her child alive. Profound and wise. A book that requires a slow read, to cherish every sentence because they all illicit some type of emotion. We learn of these characters entanglements, during the 6 day War and the Yom Kippur War all the way through to the suicide bombers of today. So much history and so much anguish. This is a very heartfelt, poignant read about three people whose connections would last, good or bad, throughout their lives and their country's history. We learn of friendship, and love, sacrifice and guilt. Then to read Grossman's comments after the end of the book, I was just floored because there is a very personal reason for the writing of this book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    I am in Paris, and have been in Berlin and Barcelona for 3 weeks before that. I have bought SO many books, and visited the best bookstores in the world: two of which were in Berlin. Today I went to Shakespeare and co, and got some contemporary French translations, so I need to plough through this so I can get started on the 15 other books im lugging around from my trip purchases. Hard to carry for 7 weeks! ......... Just finished this an I am too emotional to write about it a) because the book I am in Paris, and have been in Berlin and Barcelona for 3 weeks before that. I have bought SO many books, and visited the best bookstores in the world: two of which were in Berlin. Today I went to Shakespeare and co, and got some contemporary French translations, so I need to plough through this so I can get started on the 15 other books im lugging around from my trip purchases. Hard to carry for 7 weeks! ......... Just finished this an I am too emotional to write about it a) because the book totally ruined me emotionally and b) I just got back from a 24 hour plane ride. However, I can confidently say that this was one fo of the nest novels I have ever read and anyone that does not read this is surely missing out on something wonderful.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    This is one of the best books I've read on what it means to live in Israel. I’m not the first to write that To the End of the Land is a shattering, soul-changing book. While Mr. Grossman was working on the manuscript, his son Uri was called up to serve in Operation Cast Lead. He was killed as he attempted to rescue another group of soldiers. Grief and loss haunt every page. For three years, Ora has been anxiously awaiting her son Ofer’s discharge from the Israeli army. Together, they’ve been This is one of the best books I've read on what it means to live in Israel. I’m not the first to write that To the End of the Land is a shattering, soul-changing book. While Mr. Grossman was working on the manuscript, his son Uri was called up to serve in Operation Cast Lead. He was killed as he attempted to rescue another group of soldiers. Grief and loss haunt every page. For three years, Ora has been anxiously awaiting her son Ofer’s discharge from the Israeli army. Together, they’ve been planning a long camping trip to celebrate his new freedom. Without her knowledge, he signs on for another month. An important operation is going on, the whole country is on alert. The explanation he gives her, that his whole service has been a monotony of manning border checkpoints, and that this is his big chance to see some real action, infuriates and terrifies her. At home, she flits around her kitchen trying to distract herself. As she cooks and cleans, she finds herself glancing compulsively at the window in the door, imagining that she sees the shoes of the “notifiers,” the military men who tell families that their sons have been killed in action. Ora comes to an abrupt decision; she will take that long hike. If they can’t find her to tell her that Ofer is dead, she reasons, he can never die. In her compulsion to escape, Ora drags along Avram, her former lover and best friend, whose passion, brilliant mind and enormous talent were irreparably broken when he was tortured by the enemy during the Yom Kippur War. As they walk across the land of Israel, through cold mountain streams and fields of flowers, she will weave a magical safety net around her son by telling Avram, his biological father, about the boy’s life. The writing is full of searingly familiar details, as if Grossman had opened up my kids’ baby books and copied out my own memories. With a poignancy bordering on pain, Grossman reminds us that soldiers, twenty-year-olds in uniforms, are all someone’s little boy, a little boy who needed kisses, dressed in footsie pajamas, hugged favorite stuffed animals, and called someone "Mommy" in a sweet and lisping voice. To the End of the Land is described as having an anti-war message, and it does, but much more than that, it is a shimmering work of art; if Gunter Grass and Bruno Schulz had had a baby together, he would have written like this. The book disregards modern storytelling technique, shifting POVs and leaping back and forth in time. It begins as the tale of a friendship between three lonely, damaged teenagers, thrown together three decades earlier in the isolation ward of an empty hospital. In passages of dialogue that read like poetry, we meet Avram before his mind is ruined, when he is a funny, irresistibly original and charming fifteen-year-old kid. The moment he sets eyes on beautiful, red-headed Ora, he falls completely in love with her. He makes the mistake of introducing her to his roommate in the hospital ward, the handsome Ilan. Ora falls in love with one boy’s personality and the other boy’s beauty. Later, drawn together by a mutual love for their wrecked friend, Ora and Ilan marry. In the book's most harrowing passage, Ilan tells Ora how he tried to rescue Avram from an overrun Sinai stronghold. During the worst of the fighting, on a day when it was not certain that Israel would survive as a country, Ilan goes AWOL to get closer to the last place Avram was posted. When he tries to rally the soldiers to rescue his friend, they tell him it’s hopeless. Helplessly, he listens to Avram’s fading voice on an army radio set, addressing an uncaring universe as he waits for the Egyptian soldiers to find him and kill him. At this point in the novel, Mr. Grossman has written characters so nuanced, so fully realized, that you believe that Ilan and Avram are real. You hate war. And you are filled with dread.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard

    Tale by Israeli author, ant-settlement protester whose son was killed in the army shortly before he finishes the book. The story is far from flawless: the first 50 pages are incoherent (supposedly representing the fever of the three characters which is itself a metaphor for the war fever of Israel but it makes this piece unreadable); clunky in structure with the first 50 pages followed by a whole subplot about Ora and her family’s Palestinian driver Sami (she unthinkingly gets him to drive Ofer Tale by Israeli author, ant-settlement protester whose son was killed in the army shortly before he finishes the book. The story is far from flawless: the first 50 pages are incoherent (supposedly representing the fever of the three characters which is itself a metaphor for the war fever of Israel but it makes this piece unreadable); clunky in structure with the first 50 pages followed by a whole subplot about Ora and her family’s Palestinian driver Sami (she unthinkingly gets him to drive Ofer to his military base: he then en route to taking her to her pilgrimage uses her as a cover for an illegal refugee he is taking to a makeshift overnight Palestinian hospital) and which is more similar to Grossman’s usual writing, with then the actual story only really starting after 110 pages; at times difficult to follow and obtuse; Ora’s recollection is often far too perfect – particularly when she reports to Avram on what happened to Ilan on the day he was captured when he listened to Avram’s radio broadcasts and increasingly desperate ramblings – which Ilan only told her around 20 years ago in turn 15 years after it happened. Nevertheless it is an extremely powerful story and works on two levels: as an examination of the threat to Israeli and the resultant military culture and insecurity; and as an examination of motherhood – particularly of being a mother of three boys in a macho culture and more generally of parenthood (its joys, fears and concerns). The middle part of the book in particular is outstanding at periods with each page bringing fresh insights The Ilan/Avram/Ora relationship seems extremely close to the Max/Onno/Ada relationship in The Discovery of Heaven and the book shares much of the same feel at times. Ora’s ideas of maintaining Afer’s life by not being around to be told of his death is José Saramago-esque.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    I really enjoyed reading this book. I think one of the main reasons is that I have read so many based in the UK or USA and therefore reading this book was a refreshing change. It may seem odd to use the word refreshing considering the subject matter but I found that too was refreshing or rather the way in which it was presented. This book was challenging in a good way it was also confronting at times in a gentle rather than brutal way, it was also joyous and saddening. The writing made me feel I really enjoyed reading this book. I think one of the main reasons is that I have read so many based in the UK or USA and therefore reading this book was a refreshing change. It may seem odd to use the word refreshing considering the subject matter but I found that too was refreshing or rather the way in which it was presented. This book was challenging in a good way it was also confronting at times in a gentle rather than brutal way, it was also joyous and saddening. The writing made me feel like I was present with the characters either as an invisible guest at the family home sitting at the kitchen table or as a bird in tree overlooking a meadow with Ora and Avram, seeing, hearing and feeling the story unfold. Fortunately I had not read any reviews before reading the book so the ending was quite a surprise but that too made it stand out. I highly recommend this novel. My sincere thanks to the author for sharing this with me.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    What an entrancing introduction to the work of acclaimed, progressive Israeli novelist David Grossman, whose son died fighting in the conflict with Lebanon in 2006. Though Grossman wrote much of this novel before that tragedy, it fully informs and casts its shadow over the narrative. Grossman, in a sense, had been writing the book to protect his son, just as his protagonist Ora goes on a desperate hike with her former lover in the Galilee to avoid any bad news related to her son, Ofer (who must What an entrancing introduction to the work of acclaimed, progressive Israeli novelist David Grossman, whose son died fighting in the conflict with Lebanon in 2006. Though Grossman wrote much of this novel before that tragedy, it fully informs and casts its shadow over the narrative. Grossman, in a sense, had been writing the book to protect his son, just as his protagonist Ora goes on a desperate hike with her former lover in the Galilee to avoid any bad news related to her son, Ofer (who must be modeled on Grossman's son, Uri), fighting the 2000 offensive in the Occupied Territories. Read "The Unconsoled," George Packer's nuanced, probing profile of Grossman's complexity and understand why you have to read this book. It is a long read, at almost 600 pages, but powerfully covers the turbulent political and emotional history of Israel from 1967 almost to present. It really makes you have sympathy for progressive Israelis who know their country is doomed but still love it and feel its the only home in the world for them. As Ora poignantly observes, "I always think: This is my country, and I really don't have anywhere else to go. Where would I go? Tell me, where else could I get so annoyed about everything, and who would want me anyway? But at the same time I also know that it doesn't really have a chance, this country. It just doesn't...If you think about it logically, if you just think numbers and facts and history, with no illusions, it doesn't have a chance" (p. 322? "Ilan Came Home" chapter).

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sheri

    What this book could have been like with a decent editor! I read it on my Kindle, so I have no idea how many printed pages it was, but it felt like the reading equivalent of the Bataan Death March. And since so much of the narrative unfolds during a hike across Israel by two of the main characters, the comparison to the Bataan Death March felt pretty apt. Which isn't to say there aren't things to like about this book. The accounts of the events of the lives of the 2 sons from birth through What this book could have been like with a decent editor! I read it on my Kindle, so I have no idea how many printed pages it was, but it felt like the reading equivalent of the Bataan Death March. And since so much of the narrative unfolds during a hike across Israel by two of the main characters, the comparison to the Bataan Death March felt pretty apt. Which isn't to say there aren't things to like about this book. The accounts of the events of the lives of the 2 sons from birth through childhood are true gems. Likewise, the stories of what happened to Avram (one of the 3 adult main characters) are also fascinating, and when you find out what really happened to him and how, it's pretty gratifying. (It certainly puts a context on what's likely to happen now to Gilad Shalit, the Israeli solder just released after 5 years of captivity, at the hands of his own government.) But nothing in the book is linear, and the plot is so heavily bogged down in descriptive details that it's tempting to put the book down and just give up. Another big beef I have with the book is that the husband (Ilan) and his story are really never told, with the exception of one event. So there is both way too much, and way too little, to satisfy the reader. Finally, I hated the ending.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Despite Nicole Krauss’s ridiculously glowing review, I never felt this book was powerful, shattering or unflinching. Ora is a middle-aged Israeli mother of two who flees to the Galilean countryside when her youngest son Ofer volunteers for combat in a conflict taking place in 2000. She is desperate to escape any news of the battle and her son’s fate, so she brings an old friend Avram along with her on a trek through the wilderness. The entire novel is basically Ora’s reflection on her son, her Despite Nicole Krauss’s ridiculously glowing review, I never felt this book was powerful, shattering or unflinching. Ora is a middle-aged Israeli mother of two who flees to the Galilean countryside when her youngest son Ofer volunteers for combat in a conflict taking place in 2000. She is desperate to escape any news of the battle and her son’s fate, so she brings an old friend Avram along with her on a trek through the wilderness. The entire novel is basically Ora’s reflection on her son, her family’s dynamics, and her complex relationship with her former lover Avram and her ex-husband Ilan. Initially, the story was difficult to get into, as the first chapter was very stylized. It introduced Ora, Avram and Ilan as teenagers, but the lack of quotes and the structure of the narrative was confusing. When the story then picks up in 2000, I was frustrated with the long, rambling paragraphs, the brief scenes that seem to go on for endless pages, and several disjointed episodes that contributed little to the overall plot. Perhaps it’s because I’m not a mother and therefore I cannot relate to the nuances of motherhood that Ora ponders, but her constant appraisal of Ofer became exhausting. I also found it odd that a male author fixated so much on the intimacy of breastfeeding. I admit, there was some great history of the constant conflict in Israel, but I think the author assumed the reader already had a general knowledge of recent Israeli affairs. I think the attempt at lyricism was lost in translation from the original Hebrew, because the descriptiveness was tedious, not poetic. While there were some aspects of the book I really liked, overall it was almost 600 pages of inner dialogue and contemplation. I was especially disappointed with the conclusion and felt that the characters and situations I had invested so much time in were unfinished and the entire struggle was unresolved. I received a complimentary copy of this book via the Amazon Vine program.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This may be one of the best books I've ever read. No, that seems to contain some doubt. This IS one of the most amazing books I've ever read. I have been sleep deprived for a week because I could not put it down until long after exhaustion set in. It is set in Isreal (it's translated from Hebrew) and is about Ora, whose son's military service is extended a month just as a campaign against Lebanon begins. Ora makes a pact, a deal, where if the notifiers can't find her, then her son can't die-- so This may be one of the best books I've ever read. No, that seems to contain some doubt. This IS one of the most amazing books I've ever read. I have been sleep deprived for a week because I could not put it down until long after exhaustion set in. It is set in Isreal (it's translated from Hebrew) and is about Ora, whose son's military service is extended a month just as a campaign against Lebanon begins. Ora makes a pact, a deal, where if the notifiers can't find her, then her son can't die-- so she sets out on a month-long hike through the country. She brings her life-long friend (and sometimes lover) Avram with her. He was a POW in Eygpt when he was in the military, and was tortured so badly he has never recovered. Along the way she tells him about her marriage-- their mutual friend Ilan has recently left her-- but mostly she talks about her sons, hoping to impart the essence of them to someone, just in case. One of the astounding things about this books is how deep and rich and complex the characters are; over the course of the book we seems them so deeply, so clearly. The book is really astounding in the depth of detail and scope. Gorgeous.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    This book is like getting a punch in the gut. I have a feeling the answer to relationships, family or romantic, lies somewhere deep within the pages of this book. The power of the mind isn't in magical thinking to prevent death [but who hasn't made a bargain in their mind for something they really don't want to happen] but in destroying relationships or deceiving ourselves. The underlining current I keep coming back to is where Avram gave up on himself and forced Ilan to take all the things he This book is like getting a punch in the gut. I have a feeling the answer to relationships, family or romantic, lies somewhere deep within the pages of this book. The power of the mind isn't in magical thinking to prevent death [but who hasn't made a bargain in their mind for something they really don't want to happen] but in destroying relationships or deceiving ourselves. The underlining current I keep coming back to is where Avram gave up on himself and forced Ilan to take all the things he couldn't have for himself, because he didn't think he deserved them. He did himself a huge disservice, but an even bigger one to Ora. The letters he wrote to Ora, that she didn't love him, that she needed an Alpha male, even telling her that Ilan would not like someone who loved him that much he didn't know was so insulting to Ora. She needed gentleness in her life. Ora did the same thing but with her family. She didn't think she was smart enough for the men in her life. People can poison their own capacity or potentional with doubt and insecurities. One girl did leave Avram because he was "too emotional". Ora had to remind herself not to drown others and hold back. The scene that will stick with me forever is the memory of hiding in her mother's wardrobe and discovering her mother beats herself. Ora's mother was her harshest critic, which Ora does to herself as well. I fretted the entire book wondering why her family hated her that much. She was a bit smothering, but then why was she an unnatural mother? She loved them all too much to be unnatural. She blamed herself for things that were beyond her control. I felt this book captured perfectly the disappointments families bring on each other and the cycle of putting ones hopes on another person. Who doesn't look back and realise where they went wrong or that moment of not being unconditional. Is it possible not to put expectations on to your loved ones? While it was Ilan who harshly judged the children growing up with labels, silently Ora was doing the same thing, but with her high expectations. She was able to inspire Ilan with the possibilities rather than rigid "This is how it will be", but was let down by herself in the end. Her mother had such low standards for her doing so was a promise Ora made to herself in the closet. That she'd have the perfect family. Ofer became disillusioned with her very early on when he discovered she ate meat and he kicked her. Everyone in her life seemed to be punishing her or blaming her for something. Ora was absolutely not to only guilty party of needing, wanting or expecting something out of another person. Avram imagined their family what he desired out of them. Yes, if the standard had been one-sided they would not have turned their backs on her so. The way only Ilan could cut someone out of his life with the divorce, Ofer reenlisting, or Adam refusing to speak to her. Ora alone didn't bring these high expectations on him. The problem was she brought up things they all agreed not to discuss, because she was the one who forgot the way things were for that society to function. Ora is a difficult character to read, due to her low self-esteem and blindness to important events going on around her. You have to read between the lines and gather the pieces of the stories she shares with Avram. How did Ofer avoid the politics with the rampant propaganda and culture? I don't think he did despite refusal to read the newspapers. Politics permeate every aspect of a country that will always be at war, to be a citizen you must kill. In his own way, he shared that with Ora. She was blind to so much going on around her. Grossman tells us the Ofer we see through Ora's eyes isn't the entire picture. He had an entire life with his brother she never saw. Where did he become so afraid of Arabs as a kid he slept with a monkey hammer? He was indoctrinated by living in the society they did. You can't shield your kid and keep them innocent living in an apartheid society that treats people like cattle or criminal because of their religion or skin. You will be degraded by participating in that in your very core. He was asking the wrong questions, when he had her shown him a map of the countries that hated them. He was just a kid then. When did Ofer shut his eyes and never come back around to ask why they will always be at war. He knew they would and told her to leave if he died. Was it after he chose to reenlist? It was not possible for Ofer to remain gentle. The episode with raising him to eat meat told us what was coming, but this time didn't fight against it like she wanted him to. She herself, who didn't speak up for the people so viciously treated by their government, but forgot that it was even happening. We knew what kind of person Ora was by how she treated Sami. Ofer sensed the hypocrisy and demanded of her why she had him drive him to war. She made a huge mistake taking him to see weapons to calm him down but she never connects this to the pro-military son he becomes. How much of an impact or control can you honestly have on your kids values if you actively go along with this lifestyle? How much was her fault for living where they live [shared crimes from their entire society] and not saying the right things at the right time. Ilan blamed her for his becoming a vegetarian, but it was his return to eating meat that hurt Ora. Ora had the half-foot in and half-foot out. The pleas for him not to kill anyone for his own sake, but disgust for anyone actively engaging in the anti-war demonstrations. She thought this a betrayal of the soldiers, which is the biggest weapon used in American politics to stifle dissent. "Support the troops = allow us to murder millions of innocent people around the world in a never-ending war." She lived a really deluded life just to live. Most Americans do this so it wasn't a stretch to believe. It was revealed that the war on terror is designed never to end. After all, supposedly Germany didn't know about the concentration camps. So she put it out of her mind that Sami was Arab, what she went along with until the man in the meat locker died. Then she had to face up to what she signed her son up to do by having him. She still loves him throughout everything, despite their rejection of her, their ridicule, she loves her family. She just had to accept how everyone really was. For Adam, she realised why he had those tics with the water or rhyming words. She had Ofer on a pedestal, hoped he'd save them all perhaps like he saved Adam as a boy, when his parents could not. He saved her marriage the first time around. Ora's journey through the Galilee opened her eyes to a lifetime of living with her eyes shut. For her son she had to accept all the sides of his being. What was sad is she never does come to terms with herself. There is no coming to terms with what it means to be human, eating meat, killing and torturing people in war, all of that brutality. You can not control what others do, how they will feel. Like in life, she almost comes to the answers on her journey but not quite. We got the whole package with what it means to love someone else, when you are understood and the joy that comes with it, or the sad and loneliness when those who should understand you don't.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Durrant

    I feel a bit guilty about not having become more absorbed in this novel. Several of my friends, whose taste in literature I respect, felt Grossman's "To the End of the Land" was the best thing since sliced bread (since I have started spending time in France, this expression baffles me--was sliced bread really a step forward? Anyway . . . ) . It was for me slow and even at times tedious. The premise is enticing. A young Israeli, who has already fulfilled his compulsory military service, I feel a bit guilty about not having become more absorbed in this novel. Several of my friends, whose taste in literature I respect, felt Grossman's "To the End of the Land" was the best thing since sliced bread (since I have started spending time in France, this expression baffles me--was sliced bread really a step forward? Anyway . . . ) . It was for me slow and even at times tedious. The premise is enticing. A young Israeli, who has already fulfilled his compulsory military service, volunteers for a counter terrorist mission. His mother, a woman named Ora, has a bad feeling about what will befall him and decides, with a little magical thinking, that if she is not home for official notification of his death, he will be alright. So she goes on an extended hike through the countryside of northern Israel with a former lover, who is in interesting ways entangled with her family (I can't say more about this without adding a spoiler alert). The novel then becomes an extended series of stories and flashbacks about Ora's two sons and her own tangled romantic past. But it is also about something else, which dominates the last hundred or so pages, and that for me was highly effective and deeply moving: the sadness and trauma of living in Israel and raising children for a military that is always, in one way or another, at war. The theme gains special poignancy because the author David Grossman is an Israeli peace activist who lost a son in Lebanon in 2006. One reviewer has noted that this is a great book precisely because it intends to make a difference in our world. I respect that, as I respect the suffering of Israeli parents who generation after generation must offer their children to a battle that seems without hope of ever ending. Still, I was only absorbed in this novel for maybe half of its six hundred plus pages.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I keep taking deep breaths trying to figure out how to say and what to say about this book. It is heavy throughout, without any comic relief or lifts; it is wrenching, soul-searching, life-affirming. It hurts so much sometimes that I needed to set it aside and take breathers and remind myself that this was not happening to me, although when this happens in the world it happens to us all. It is unimaginable and yet 100% possible and real. I walked every mile of this journey in Ora's shoes. My I keep taking deep breaths trying to figure out how to say and what to say about this book. It is heavy throughout, without any comic relief or lifts; it is wrenching, soul-searching, life-affirming. It hurts so much sometimes that I needed to set it aside and take breathers and remind myself that this was not happening to me, although when this happens in the world it happens to us all. It is unimaginable and yet 100% possible and real. I walked every mile of this journey in Ora's shoes. My lovely friend, Elyse, recommended this book through a review, and along with recommending reading it, she recommended NOT reading anything about it before hand. I agree with her whole-heartedly. I came at it without reading even the blurbs on the book jacket and I was very glad I did. I will not spoil it for anyone else by even hinting at the subject matter, but I will say that it is a microcosm of the human experience, all the difficult things we face, all the lovely moments we cherish as we build our all too fragile lives, all the interconnections that make us more than individuals and part of something so much grander and all the inner-workings that make us uniquely ourselves and therefore perpetually lonely and alone in life. My mind will not let go of this story, and might not do so for quite some time. I do not think I will ever forget it. To David Grossman I would say, as difficult as this book must have been to write, you have done a service to mankind in writing it. God bless you.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tuck

    an absolutely necessary novel and if you didn't believe in Grossman before, this will absolutely convince you he is one of the best writers today.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Monica Carter

    They sit quietly, digesting. Ora hugs her knees, rationalizing that she isn't all that accessible and permeable even to herself anymore, and that even she herself doesn't go near that place inside of her. It must be that she's growing old, she decides--for some time now she's had a strange eagerness to pronounce her aging, impatient for the relief that comes with a declaration of total bankruptcy. That's how it goes. You say goodbye to yourself even before other people start to, softening the They sit quietly, digesting. Ora hugs her knees, rationalizing that she isn't all that accessible and permeable even to herself anymore, and that even she herself doesn't go near that place inside of her. It must be that she's growing old, she decides--for some time now she's had a strange eagerness to pronounce her aging, impatient for the relief that comes with a declaration of total bankruptcy. That's how it goes. You say goodbye to yourself even before other people start to, softening the blow of what will inevitably come. Israeli writer David Grossman's To the End of the Land is a tortuous and conflicted epic about the cost of war--how it commands the attention of not just the soldiers but of those left behind, seemingly waiting for death to enter their lives in a way they hadn't expected. This novel is centered around Ora, an Israeli mother of two sons, Adam and Ofer, ages twenty-four and twenty-one respectively. She has drifted from her son Adam and is separated from her husband, Ilan, who are now both on a trip together in South America. Adam has finished her military service but her youngest son, Ofer, has voluntarily signed up for another mission on the eve of her and Ofer's plans to go on a camping trip. Ora is devastated by this and overwhelmed with the possibility of his death. Ora decides to walk 'to the end of the land', to the Galilee, in hopes of avoiding any bad news of ever reaching her. Accompanying her on this trip is Avram, a friend since she was fifteen years old and her first boyfriend...and the father of Ofer. The prologue, set in 1967, lays down the foundation for the love triangle between Ilan, Avram and Ora which plays out on several levels throughout the novel. All three met while they were hospitalized with illnesses while they were teens and become so embroiled in each others lives is difficult to imagine one functioning without the other. Ilan is handsome, detached and emotionally deprived while Avram is jovial, artistic and impassioned. Both are in love with Ora. Ora can't choose between the two and while both are away at military service, they alternated weekends with Ora. Then, tragedy strikes Avram when he is held as a POW in Egypt. He returns battered and mutilated, void of personality and emotion. Ilan feels responsible; Ora feels guilty. Ilan and Ora have coupled while Avram is away and have a son. But Ilan is threatened by the idea of family and flees his home life. After Avram is recuperated, he tells Ora that he can't perform sexually. She knows how intimate their physical bond was and seduces him. Ofer is the son of that union. By the time he is born, Ilan and Ora have reunited and Avram, who knows he is dead inside, wants them to take care of Ofer. He never wants to see or meet Ofer. Avram falls out of their lives except for infrequent communications with Ora where the discuss, very minimally, what is going on in Ofer's life. When Ofer is released from military duty, Avram calls Ora to make sure that he was released. When she confirms that she tells him that he signed up for another duty immediately. Avram is drug-addled, slipping away, and Ora knows this. She goes over to his apartment and hijacks him for this trip. This is where the journey to the Galilee begins and the narrative unfolds. Walking the land, sporting the two backpacks that Ofer and Ora had packed for their trip, Avram and Ora try to reconnect to who they once were, as individuals and as a couple. Gradually, Avram shakes off his pharmaceutical stupor and Ora becomes less desperate and they settle into the ebb and flow of revealing their lives to each other. Ora frantically Ofer's life onto Avram and Avram's initial resistance fades and he begins to ask questions about Ofer as opposed to silently tolerating her stories. The narrative is complex, sprawling, and as varied as the land they traverse. The inexplicable destruction of war, the absoluteness of its actions, the devastation it creates pulses through Ora and her stories, her maternal anxiety and fear. The brutal moment when the reader learns of Avram's torture is enough to make you close the book and mourn the evil that lurks in human mind. The history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is set-up well in the beginning of the novel by the relationship between Sami, an Arabic-israeli taxi driver, and Ora. They manage to maintain a friendship by disparaging both sides as part of their banter and nobody is left unscathed. But their relationship eventually gets tested and feebly survives. Although the relationship between Sami and Ora is interesting and provocative, after the trek to the Galilee begins, Sami is forgotten as if Grossman had created Sami solely to introduce the daily conflicted Israeli experience and once that purposed is served, he no longer appears in the novel. The histories of Ora,Ilan, Adam, Ofer and Avram are woven skillfully with the present scenes between Ora and Avram. Yet, this device of telling the past would be more effective if there was less of it. The more that it happens, the more it produces a scrim between who the character is and what we are told the character is. Most of Ilan and Adam are told to us, not shown, and that can be a bit heavy after awhile. We don't know much of Ofer except what Ora tells us and in the end, this reveals more about Ora that Ofer which is an effective technique. Ora's pain and Avram's pain are so different yet equally excruciating and they manage to comfort each other with their own manifestations of empathy. Two people, one fearful of, the other scarred from it, inch away from their extremes to meet in the middle--the common ground of Ofer. Although the narrative is intricate and the structure is complicated, their is no swift climax that delivers truths that deny or confirm their fears. Instead, Grossman unveils the idea of intimacy between two people that in finding each other again, find a value in their own lives they thought they lost to war. War itself gives no answers and the questions it asks have no redeeming answers, a trial of humanity with no end and no judgment in the end. It is destruction and that is it. All that we can do, any of us, is not surrender to it and to not be defeated by its hopelessness. Grossman eloquently tells a story that affirms this. This is an amazing work of poignancy and craftsmanship, a mournful exploration of the psychological damages of pain from war and life. The book is thought-provoking and nuanced. I did find flaw with the prose, lots of people hissing lines and some cases of one sentence too many. Perhaps this is a subjective preference, but as ornate as the internal machinations of Ora are, it seems that Grossman overwrites to ensure that the reader understands the exact psychological state she is experiencing. He tries to make her emotions concrete and this doesn't always work. But the richness in character and story details compensates for some of this. No character is left underdeveloped or flat. The task of translating this was monumental, to be sure, but I did question some of the choices. Overall, Jessica Cohen's efforts are admirable. To the End of the Land is a testament to the ravages of war and no one understands this better than Grossman who lost one of his sons to war while he was writing this book. This belongs alongside Hans Fallada's Every Man Dies Alone as necessary war fiction. This is no understanding war, only surviving and witnessing and Grossman let's us know that it can be done but not without scars and courage.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Chaikin

    This comes from a terrific book recommendation I got at a bookstore in Tel Aviv back in February. The bookstore clerk turned me away from the latest Amos Oz and even the award winning latest Grossman and pointed me to this (and a couple others). I loved this book even as I struggled to read more than about ten pages a sitting (at almost 600 pages, that's a lot of sittings). The language is somehow very intense, always. He delves into the psychology of always-at-war Israel, specifically from the This comes from a terrific book recommendation I got at a bookstore in Tel Aviv back in February. The bookstore clerk turned me away from the latest Amos Oz and even the award winning latest Grossman and pointed me to this (and a couple others). I loved this book even as I struggled to read more than about ten pages a sitting (at almost 600 pages, that's a lot of sittings). The language is somehow very intense, always. He delves into the psychology of always-at-war Israel, specifically from the perspective of a parent of an IDF soldier during an uprising. He creates terrific characters who come alive when they are talking or being talked about. And he is something of a master of atmosphere through words, creating many different ones - sometimes surreal, sometimes from war experiences, from memory or anxiety. I felt the weight of the book before I was aware of what went into it - which I don't want to specify (although you can look it up easily), but there a whole extra resounding meaning here because of that. Recommended, even if it took me forever to get through. ----------------------------------------------- 17. To the End of the Land by David Grossman published: 2008 (translated 2010) translation: from Hebrew by Jessica Cohen in 2010 format: 576 page paperback acquired: Tel Aviv in February read: 1st 100 pages in and flying from Israel in February, then Mar 14 – Apr 8 rating: 4½

  22. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    I've been wanting to read this book ever since it came out three years ago. I kept putting it off and finally formed the world's smallest possible reading group with one other person, a woman from one of my regular reading groups. We set a date to discuss it and encouraged each other along. I am so glad we did that. Ruth is Jewish and has visited Israel twice. She is the mother of two grown sons, as am I. We met for lunch and talked about the book for three hours! To The End Of The Land is about I've been wanting to read this book ever since it came out three years ago. I kept putting it off and finally formed the world's smallest possible reading group with one other person, a woman from one of my regular reading groups. We set a date to discuss it and encouraged each other along. I am so glad we did that. Ruth is Jewish and has visited Israel twice. She is the mother of two grown sons, as am I. We met for lunch and talked about the book for three hours! To The End Of The Land is about so many things. It is about an endearing but torturous love triangle. It is about motherhood in all its glory and suffering. It is about love and family in war-torn Israel. It is about lost causes. And much more. Ora is the mother. The novel opens with a 43 page long prologue that I had to read three times before I grasped what was going on. In 1967 three very sick victims of an illness consisting primarily of high fevers, meet up. They are in hospital with only one nurse to care for them. War is raging nearby but these three quarantined teens are too delirious to understand what is going on. Ora falls in love with the other two, Ilan and Avram. Their destinies are forever entwined due to the alchemical crucible of fever, fear, sex, and love. Eventually they recover and go back to their lives. Everything that happens thereafter is embedded in the eternal conflict that is the modern state of Israel. Ora marries Ilan; Avram is captured and tortured by Egyptian soldiers. Ora has a son by Ilan and a son by Avram. The constant war and mandatory military service, the threat of death and all that stems from these factors are the only sure things in their lives. But for Ora, her sons, as well as her husband and her lover (who by the way are best friends and soul mates) are the central facts of existence. It is hard to explain the emotional power of this novel. That a man could write so truthfully about a woman is one of those feats of literature; almost proof to me of our basic essence as spiritual beings who in any life take on the role of male or female. Ora is a wild and primal force as a mother, a lover, and a woman. But Ilan and Avram and the sons are no less than she. Once again I have read the story of motherhood and its basic truth that no matter what, your children grow up and leave you. Though this has also been my experience, I have yet to come to terms with this paradox and neither does Ora. What mothers will do to maintain themselves as protectors of their children involves a level of sacrifice AND power transcending any amount of aggression and destruction that men can wreak on life. The wonder of this particular story is how eloquently and thoroughly David Grossman has revealed all of the above. His book has the reputation of being a difficult read and I imagine that means different things to different readers. I found it difficult in terms of its length and its emotional impact but ultimately for me it became one of those books that I will never forget and that was an important step in understanding many questions I have had about life. I want every mother I know to read it. I want the President, Secretary of State, and anyone else in our government who has to deal with the Israeli/Arab conflict to read it. I want all the leaders of the world to read it. I know that won't happen. Just like the besotted and determined Ora, I will not stop hoping and talking and cajoling and pleading and living for a future that honestly only women can create. David Grossman must have an incredible mother because he clearly understands this.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mary Soderstrom

    Two State, One State: The Dilemma of Israel and Palestine in Two Books The New York Times carried a very interesting essay earlier this week by Anthony Lerman, "The End of Liberal Zionism." This summer's war in Gaza underscores the difficulties Jews who embrace liberal values have with the coalition of right wing and theologically pure interests which now hold sway in Israel. I've invited my liberal Jewish friends to comment on Facebook, but so far I have no input from them. So I've returned to Two State, One State: The Dilemma of Israel and Palestine in Two Books The New York Times carried a very interesting essay earlier this week by Anthony Lerman, "The End of Liberal Zionism." This summer's war in Gaza underscores the difficulties Jews who embrace liberal values have with the coalition of right wing and theologically pure interests which now hold sway in Israel. I've invited my liberal Jewish friends to comment on Facebook, but so far I have no input from them. So I've returned to thinking about two books read in recent months which gie fascinatin background to the ongoing troubles between Irsaellis and Palestinians. The first is David Grossman's To the End of the Land and the other is Guy Delisle's Jerusalem Chronicles: Tales from the Holy City. The former novel is by one of Israel's best known novelists and tells the story of a woman who through magical thinking tries to stop learning that her son has been killed during the last Israeli conflict with Lebanon. Rooted in a walking trip the Grossman himself took through his country, it examines how it got to its current sorry state. Too long by about 50 pages (the book would have profited from an editor cutting out a sentence here and another one there), the novel nevertheless is engrossing on a human level: I understood completely why the heroine covered up the windows on her door so she wouldn't see the messenger of death arrive. After reading it I also could appreciate much better why Israeli is the way it is today. My admiration for Grossman only grew when I learned that one of his sons was killed in the final days of the Lebanon incursion. He did not succumb to rage at what had happened, but continued to work on his rather measured account. The second book is a graphic novel that Delisle wrote after he and his family spent in a year in Jerusalem while his wife worked for Doctors without Borders. It's a view you won't find anywhere else, and a great complement to Grossman's novel. Grossman, by the way, wrote an eloquent plea in the July 28, 2014 New York Times, that could be an answer to the Lerman's much less hopeful piece. He concludes as if to point out to Lerman where liberal Jews are now: "There are many who still “remember the future” (an odd phrase, but an accurate one in this context) — the future they want for Israel, and for Palestine. There are still — but who knows for how much longer — people in Israel who understand that if we sink into apathy again we will be leaving the arena to those who would drag us fervently into the next war, igniting every possible locus of conflict in Israeli society as they go. "If we do not do this, we will all — Israelis and Palestinians, blindfolded, our heads bowed in stupor, collaborating with hopelessness — continue to turn the grindstone of this conflict, which crushes and erodes our lives, our hopes and our humanity."

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lowry

    I was at a Bar Mitzvah, standing around with drink in hand, when someone I only see at Bar Mitzvahs told me about this book with the kind of passion and conviction that made me sure I wanted to read it. (And I typically resist reading any book I'm told I must read.) She was right. In recent years I don't read as many novels as I once did, and it perhaps matters more, therefore, when reading one really seems to have made a difference. When I ask myself if I've read anything that might one day be I was at a Bar Mitzvah, standing around with drink in hand, when someone I only see at Bar Mitzvahs told me about this book with the kind of passion and conviction that made me sure I wanted to read it. (And I typically resist reading any book I'm told I must read.) She was right. In recent years I don't read as many novels as I once did, and it perhaps matters more, therefore, when reading one really seems to have made a difference. When I ask myself if I've read anything that might one day be called a great book -- I mean fifty years from now (if people even have the luxury of such conversations fifty years from now) -- few live up to that standard. To the End of the Land definitely does. I've seldom read anything so permeated with sadness and love. Probably I've never read anything that more powerfully evokes the love a parent feels for a grown child. I could go on about this book on a thematic level, but it would be pointless. Just open it and start reading. If you don't find yourself swept away by it, then fine, close the book. If you do, and I suspect you will, then you are about to have an experience you won't forget.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    My reactions to this book are all over the map, as it were. Part of the time I was quite annoyed with the characters and the author. Some of the dialogue (and perhaps this is just because it's in translation) seemed stilted and improbable to me. (Who doesn't wish they could go back and have the perfect conversation with an ex-lover where they neatly sum everything up and get to go on and on about their life since the breakup in mundane detail? And for those who do wish that - what the heck is My reactions to this book are all over the map, as it were. Part of the time I was quite annoyed with the characters and the author. Some of the dialogue (and perhaps this is just because it's in translation) seemed stilted and improbable to me. (Who doesn't wish they could go back and have the perfect conversation with an ex-lover where they neatly sum everything up and get to go on and on about their life since the breakup in mundane detail? And for those who do wish that - what the heck is wrong with you people? ;-) ) But there are some amazing aspects to this book too. The description of the landscape that the characters are hiking through made me feel like I was there too. The war scenes are harrowing. The glimpse into the harrowing realities of everyday Israeli life makes you understand more what they're going through (though the Palestinians never get the same treatment - after some brief allusions to life on the other side, the subject gets abruptly dropped, along with what seemed to be a significant character.) A worthwhile, though imperfect, read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    David M

    This novel has been praised by commentators of all stripes, from the odious Jeffrey Goldberg to the righteous Gideon Levy. I'd like to concur that it is in fact a beautiful work of art. Politically, David Grossman seems to consider himself something of a liberal Zionist (an oxymoron in my opinion, but never mind that for now); this is very far from a didactic book, however. I'd even say its wisdom exceeds the opinions of its author. Grossman has no particular case to make here. Mostly this is a This novel has been praised by commentators of all stripes, from the odious Jeffrey Goldberg to the righteous Gideon Levy. I'd like to concur that it is in fact a beautiful work of art. Politically, David Grossman seems to consider himself something of a liberal Zionist (an oxymoron in my opinion, but never mind that for now); this is very far from a didactic book, however. I'd even say its wisdom exceeds the opinions of its author. Grossman has no particular case to make here. Mostly this is a novel about the quiet, intimate moments that add up to make a life. In the process, almost as if by accident, the author also presents a devastating portrait of his country. Not so much a reckoning as a meditation on the human costs of war, occupation, apartheid.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Lieberman

    Terribly beautiful. I've admired Grossman's work for years, but I've felt that he always stopped short of exploring the full extent of the situations he describes, whether in his journalism or his fiction. This book shatters the glass wall and at times it was so painful to read that I had to put it down, but everything was rendered so exquisitely that I had to keep reading.

  28. 4 out of 5

    switterbug (Betsey)

    Ora, an Israeli mother, planned a Galilee backpacking trip with her youngest son, Ofer, to celebrate the end of his army conscription. But, like a fist through her soul, he signed up for a major offensive, another twenty-eight days. Barely holding her sanity together--her husband, Ilan, has trekked off to Bolivia with her oldest son, Adam--she flees from her fear of the "notifiers" (the government officials who deliver grave news) and leaves, anyway, sans cell phone and contact access. Ora pleads Ora, an Israeli mother, planned a Galilee backpacking trip with her youngest son, Ofer, to celebrate the end of his army conscription. But, like a fist through her soul, he signed up for a major offensive, another twenty-eight days. Barely holding her sanity together--her husband, Ilan, has trekked off to Bolivia with her oldest son, Adam--she flees from her fear of the "notifiers" (the government officials who deliver grave news) and leaves, anyway, sans cell phone and contact access. Ora pleads with her reclusive old friend and former lover, Avram, erstwhile best friend to Ilan, to accompany her to the Galilee. She believes that, with Avram, they can form a thread that ties them to the land, to nature, to safety, to Ofer, and weave a tapestry that protects him from peril. With Avram, she can magically keep Ofer alive. No one else can extinguish bad thoughts and assist her to defy fate. "...she was always easy with Avram, letting him see all of her, almost from the first moment she met him, because she had a feeling, a conviction that there was something inside her, or someone, perhaps an Ora more loyal to her own essence, more precise and less vague, and Avram seemed to have a way to reach her." Years ago, Avram and Ilan were soldiers together, and the story explains how Avram lost his artistic spirit and love of words and suffered permanent damage and a death of the soul. As they hike, climb and acclimate to the wild terrain, Ora recapitulates the story of her family--the details of raising her sons and her forsaken marriage to Ilan. The germination and withering of the friendship between Ora, Avram, and Ilan is recounted in flashbacks and threaded into her story as a wife and mother. The following quote refers to Ora talking to Ofer when he was only a few hours old: "It surprised me how simple the story was when I told it to him. That was the first time (and probably the last) that I was able to think about us that way. The whole complication that was us, me and Avram and Ilan, all of a sudden became one little unequivocal child, and the story was simple." The reader clings to the tensile wire of a mortal coil that underscores this hefty opus. Ora is beseeching the universe to keep Ofer alive while simultaneously striving to rescue Avram's spirit. The secrets and treacheries they share and their separate and private agonies are knotted together, and the frayed but enduring fibers unwind and snap through the story. Grossman is an eloquent and assiduous writer of internal struggle and emotional combat. He leaves no stone unturned, and the reader is saturated with Ora's psyche on every page. I was sometimes exhausted with the relentless, strenuous tone of his narrative. The surplus verbiage and chronic turmoil drowned his beautiful nuances and periodically made reading a chore. Ora's self-indulgence struck me as pretext for the author's prolixity. However, there is abundant beauty and unbreakable heart to this story, which, while swollen at times, is never pompous. It is visceral and sometimes surreal, but much less stream-of-consciousness and magical realism than some of his previous novels purport to be. And, from Avram, there was often relief from Ora's tautology. The sections on him were full of delightful, clever word-play and ribald wit. Aesthetically, the final, transcendent scene was painterly, exquisite, and delicate, recalling, for me, (in spirit, not in actual event) the elegance in the final scene of Kate Grenville's story of war, The Lieutenant. Grossman shakes the reader with the toll of war and the trials of raising a family. The burdens of choice, ambivalence, and fate linger on from one generation to the next. This moving story has a loose, allegorical significance to Tolstoy's War and Peace and reworks the first line to Anna Karenina to remind us that all happy families are miserable in different ways.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer (JC-S)

    ‘Had you known what would happen, which name would you have wanted to pick?’ The novel opens in 1967 with a lengthy prologue set in the isolation ward of a Tel Aviv hospital during the Six Day War. Three sick teenagers: the girl Ora, and the two boys Avram and Ilan, are terrified that Israel has already fallen to the Egyptians. They try to comfort each other: Ora is already falling in love with the artistic and romantic Avram; it seems possible that Ilan may not survive. But forty years later, ‘Had you known what would happen, which name would you have wanted to pick?’ The novel opens in 1967 with a lengthy prologue set in the isolation ward of a Tel Aviv hospital during the Six Day War. Three sick teenagers: the girl Ora, and the two boys Avram and Ilan, are terrified that Israel has already fallen to the Egyptians. They try to comfort each other: Ora is already falling in love with the artistic and romantic Avram; it seems possible that Ilan may not survive. But forty years later, just as another war is beginning, we meet Ora again. She is the mother of two sons and is separated from her husband, Ilan. Her younger son, Ofer, has just finished his military service but has volunteered to serve for a further period during a major offensive. Ofer is taken to the base by the family’s long-standing taxi driver, Sami, a Palestinian Israeli who is aware that Ofer will be waging war on his people. This early part of the novel is full of the contrasts between the lives and realities of the different occupants of Israel. Ora decides that she will not return home. She does not want to be there if there is a knock on the door, and in her anxiety, magical thinking leads her to conclude that there cannot be bad news if it cannot be delivered. Ora decides instead to undertake the hiking trip that she and Ofer had planned and further decides that she will share the journey with Avram. Avram is now a haunted man, physically ill and emotionally detached but he is an important part of Ora’s past. Just how important becomes clear as the story unfolds. During the course of their hike through Israel, Ora and Avram revisit their lives including their tangled relationships with Ilan and each other. Their history and their memories become part of the present as they travel through their lives as well as through the land. Avram’s past has anesthetised him and Ora’s attempts to share Ofer’s life with him need to break through the barriers he has erected around his feelings. This is a long and at times convoluted story. The imagery - of the uncertainty of life, the injustices of occupation - and the monuments to fallen soldiers, haunt Avram and Ora’s present as it has shaped their past. Lives shaped by a continuing battle for survival in every sense, especially for Avram. I found the novel easy to read, but difficult to warm to. Part of this was because of its length but I also found that I did not care for Ora and this impacted on my capacity to feel sympathetic towards her. And because Ora is so central to this story, I could not re-focus easily on the other elements which potentially interested me more. The story of Avram, for example, the challenges faced by Sami, the lives of Ofer, of his elder brother Adam and of Ilan – each of these elements was important but was subsumed into Ora’s musings, actions and reactions. Ora’s story was simultaneously not enough, and far too much. ‘When had she learned these movements and these looks?’ Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Cohan

    It is hard enough to review, or critique, the work of a highly accomplished author without thinking, “Who am I to opine?” And it is exponentially even harder when the book in question closely reflects a tragic loss in the author’s personal life. So I’m a little uncomfortable, even pained, to say that I cannot recommend David Grossman’s epic Israeli novel, “To the End of the Land.” The novel focuses on two very well-drawn characters: Ora, a middle-aged mother whose son has a dangerous job in the It is hard enough to review, or critique, the work of a highly accomplished author without thinking, “Who am I to opine?” And it is exponentially even harder when the book in question closely reflects a tragic loss in the author’s personal life. So I’m a little uncomfortable, even pained, to say that I cannot recommend David Grossman’s epic Israeli novel, “To the End of the Land.” The novel focuses on two very well-drawn characters: Ora, a middle-aged mother whose son has a dangerous job in the Israel Defense Forces, and Avram, an old friend and former prisoner of war. The front-of-jacket photograph of a field of flowers should have signaled to me that “Land” was better suited for an all-women’s book club than for me. I give Grossman full credit for painting such a penetrating portrait of a female character, but the book oozes with so much estrogen that, after reading a few pages, I had to turn on a hockey game to regain my hormonal equilibrium. The book is so thoroughly feminine that even the lead male character refers to himself as the "girlfriend" of Ora. The book will not only appeal to female readers, but to anyone who loves detailed descriptions of child-rearing. If you don’t fall into either of those two categories, you might lose patience with some passages, like the exhaustive account of a baby’s first steps. But what really bothered me about the book was the aberrant, bizarre, stretch-my-credulity-beyond-the-breaking-point behavior of the two main characters. Ora, at one point, attempts to bury her head in the sand. Quite literally. Avram, not to be outdone, stands frozen in the middle of a busy highway, pondering a relationship issue. Perhaps Grossman was aiming for symbolic effect. But was it really necessary to resort to such implausibility? Weighing in at 576 pages, the book has plenty of space to dwell on multiple themes, and does indeed pull double duty as an intimate portrait of a family and as an anti-war novel. Almost 500 pages into the novel, the meandering narrative finally arrives at a section of taut, page-turning tension, as Grossman paints a riveting scene of a battle in Yom Kippur War. But just as the scene is nearing its dramatic climax, he clogs the flow with a long, digressive, Avram monologue. Anything Grossman writes will have considerable merit. In this case, his masterful use of language shines through, even in English translation. But, the buzz over this book aside, I have my doubts that “Land” will go down as his greatest novel.

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