Author: Assaf Gavron
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Summary: Although I enjoyed the understated humor in this story, the plot and characters were unengaging and I found much of the story too dark and gritty.
“On a rocky, beautiful hilltop stands Ma’aleh Hermesh C, a fledgling community flying under the radar. According to the government it doesn’t exist; according to the military it must be defended.[…]One of the settlement’s steadfast residents is Gabi Kupper, a one-time free spirit and kibbutz-dweller, who undergoes a religious awakening. The delicate routines of Gabi’s new life are thrown into turmoil with the sudden arrival of Roni, his prodigal brother, who, years after venturing to America in search of fortune, arrives at Gabi’s door, penniless. To the settlement’s dismay, Roni soon hatches a plan to sell the “artisanal” olive oil from the Palestinian village to Tel Aviv yuppies. When a curious Washington Post correspondent stumbles into their midst, Ma’aleh Hermesh C becomes the focus of an international diplomatic scandal and faces its greatest test yet.” (source)
My favorite part of this book was the understated humor highlighting the contradictions in the way the government treated the settlement. Unfortunately, this ended up being small part of the story. Instead, the majority of the story focused on Gabi, his brother Roni, and their history which was often pretty messed up. I definitely didn’t go into this expecting an issue book. I didn’t expect something especially gritty. As a result, I was unpleasantly surprised by how much violence there was in this book, including some bad things happening to animals. I realize sometimes that sort of thing can add to the story, but in this case, I felt it was unnecessary.
I was curious about Gabi and Roni’s history, but definitely not as hooked as I’ve been by other dual narrative past/present stories. I also wasn’t especially engaged in finding out what happened to the settlement. As a result, the plot felt slow. The characters didn’t pull me in either. The author did an impressive job making some really terrible characters sympathetic, but it wasn’t enough. Gabi came across as an unrepentant psychopath who experienced very little character growth. The ending wrapped up rapidly and unbelievably neatly. I loved learning a bit more about Israel from and Israeli author, but the book still fell flat for me.