Summary and book reviews of The Debba by Avner Mandelman

The Debba

By Avner Mandelman

The Debba
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback: Jul 2010,
    368 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

In Middle East lore the Debba is a mythical Arab hyena that can turn into a man who lures Jewish children away from their families to teach them the language of the beasts. To the Arabs he is a heroic national symbol; to the Jews he is a terrorist. To David Starkman, "The Debba” is a controversial play, written by his father the war hero, and performed only once, in Haifa in 1946, causing a massive riot.

By 1977, David is living in Canada, having renounced his Israeli citizenship and withdrawn from his family, haunted by persistent nightmares about his catastrophic turn as a military assassin for Israel. Upon learning of his father’s gruesome murder, he returns to his homeland for what he hopes will be the final time. Back in Israel, David discovers that his father's will demands he stage the play within forty-five days of his death, and though he is reluctant to comply, the authorities’ evident relief at his refusal convinces him he must persevere.

With his father’s legacy on the line, David is forced to reimmerse himself in a life he thought he’d escaped for good.The heart-stopping climax shows that nothing in Israel is as it appears, and not only are the sins of the fathers revisited upon the sons, but so are their virtues—and the latter are more terrible still. Disguised as a breathtaking thriller, Avner Mandelman’s novel reveals Israel’s double soul, its inherent paradoxes, and its taste for both art and violence. The riddle of the Debba—the myth, the play, and the novel— is nothing less than the tangled riddle of Israel itself.

Paperback Original

Prologue

Men in my family always left their place of birth. When my father was seventeen years old he bought passage on a boat to Yaffo. It was a two-way ticket. The British, who ruled Palestine then, would never have let him enter without it. He did not have an immigration certificate.

I am told he was a quiet, slim youth, strangely intense, and fierce when aroused. My grandfather once had to buy off the Head of Police after my father had beaten up the son of a rich barrel-merchant. The young goy taunted my father and called him a dirty Jew. The taunter was big and fat, and smoked cigarettes. My father, who was half the goy’s size, almost killed him with a stick he had grabbed from a lame old charwoman. It took three policemen to tear my father off his victim.

Aunt Rina, who was eight then, claims no one could pry the stick from my father's hand. Finally the Chief of Police broke my father's thumb with a hammer. They put my father in jail, where he stayed for four days. He was...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse

If The Debba were a building it might be an M.C. Escher-like structure with staircases doubling back onto themselves creating an awesome network of levels and plotlines. On the surface this may appear to be a murder mystery, but from page one it became clear to me that it was much more than I was expecting... This is a fine book for readers who, like me, have basically only broad-brush knowledge of Middle East politics, have few preconceptions about said politics and who relish ingeniously multi-layered stories.   (Reviewed by Donna Chavez).

Full Review Members Only (1049 words).

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The author deftly blends a murder mystery with a nuanced examination of the intransigent Israeli-Arab conflict.

Kirkus Reviews

An absorbing and captivating novel that bridges the uncomfortable political gap between the Palestinian and Israeli sides.

Booklist

Starred Review. A first-rate debut novel that tackles current issues in the Arab-Israeli conflict while revealing the paradoxes of Israeli life for those who embrace the arts yet must deal with violence on a daily basis.

Reader Reviews
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Yiddish
Mandelman's novel is generously peppered with Yiddish words and phrases, complete with translations. There are other Yiddish words that require no translation having found their way into common English usage; words such as bagel, maven and klutz, have become so widespread that it would be difficult to spend a day without hearing, reading or uttering one of them. Others, such as schmooze, kvetch and shtick, while not as routinely used are nonetheless virtually irreplaceable in reference to the activities or things they describe.

Many people mistakenly believe Yiddish to be a kind of ethnic jargon. However, it is best described as a fusion language that shares a common ancestry with both German and English, in addition ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Debba, try these:

  • Edges jacket

    Edges

    by Leora Skolkin-Smith

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    Set in 1960s Israel, this is a hypnotic meditation on the ever-changing boundaries of love and need etched in a wartime Mideast as shifting and dangerous and mysterious as the Israeli desert.

  • Finding Nouf jacket

    Finding Nouf

    by Zoƫ Ferraris

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    A novel of taut psychological suspense, offering an unprecedented window into Saudi Arabia and the lives of the men and women who live there.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Promise
    The Promise
    by Ann Weisgarber
    Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables fame, once wrote that "...all things ...
  • Book Jacket: Black Moon
    Black Moon
    by Kenneth Calhoun
    The popularity of book-turned-movie World War Z and television series The Walking Dead points to a ...
  • Book Jacket: Hyde
    Hyde
    by Daniel Levine
    In Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the story ends ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Steady Running of the Hour

The Steady Running of the Hour

"Exciting, emotionally engaging and amibtious. I loved it!" - Kate Mosse

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I T T O A Eye

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.