Ora, a middle-aged Israeli mother, is on the verge of celebrating her son Ofers release from army service when he returns to the front for a major offensive. In a fit of preemptive grief and magical thinking, she sets out for a hike in the Galilee, leaving no forwarding information for the notifiers who might darken her door with the worst possible news. Recently estranged from her husband, Ilan, she drags along an unlikely companion: their former best friend and her former lover Avram, once a brilliant artistic spirit. Avram served in the army alongside Ilan when they were young, but their lives were forever changed one weekend when the two jokingly had Ora draw lots to see which of them would get the few days leave being offered by their commandera chance act that sent Avram into Egpyt and the Yom Kippur War, where he was brutally tortured as POW.
In the aftermath, a virtual hermit, he refused to keep in touch with the family and has never met the boy. Now, as Ora and Avram sleep out in the hills, ford rivers, and cross valleys, avoiding all news from the front, she gives him the gift of Ofer, word by word; she supplies the whole story of her motherhood, a retelling that keeps Ofer very much alive for Ora and for the reader, and opens Avram to human bonds undreamed of in his broken world. Their walk has a war and peace rhythm, as their conversation places the most hideous trials of war next to the joys and anguish of raising children. Never have we seen so clearly the reality and surreality of daily life in Israel, the currents of ambivalence about war within one household, and the burdens that fall on each generation anew.
Grossmans rich imagining of a family in love and crisis makes for one of the great antiwar novels of our time.
Translated by Jessica Cohen
To the End of the Land
When they get to the meeting point, Sami pulls into the first parking spot he finds, yanks up the emergency brake, folds his arms over his chest, and announces that he will wait for Ora there. And he asks her to be quick, which he has never done before. Ofer gets out of the cab and Sami does not move. He hisses something, but she cant tell what. She hopes he was saying goodbye to Ofer, but who knows what he was muttering. She marches after Ofer, blinking at the dazzling lights: rifle barrels, sunglasses, car mirrors. She doesnt know where he is leading her and is afraid he will get swallowed up among the hundreds of young men and she will never see him again. Meaningshe immediately corrects herself, revising the grim minutes she has been keeping all day she wont see him again until he comes home. The sun beats down, and the horde becomes a heap of colorful, bustling dots. She focuses on Ofers long khaki back. His walk is ...
To the End of the Land is timely not only in light of Israel's ongoing conflicts; unfortunately, it will be timely as long as mothers send their sons off to war...Grossman's writing is rich and detailed, nearly every sentence so vivid that one feels exactly what his characters are experiencing... I found some paragraphs so beautiful that I had to pause to simply savor Grossman's precise use of the written word, deeply moved by his mastery.
(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
Full Review (1114 words).
In To the End of the Land, the central characters backpack along the northern stretch of the Israel National Trail, which is also known as "The Galilee."
The Israel National Trail (INT) is a 597 mile long (955 km) hiking trail that crosses the entire country of Israel, north to south, running from the city of Dan on the Lebanese border to Eilat on the Red Sea (map). The trail offers remarkable variety, winding through deserts, forests and mountains, as well as providing access to historical and archaeological sites.
The INT was the brainchild of Avraham Tamir, a writer and journalist for an Israeli children's magazine. In 1980 he hiked the Appalachian Trail in the United States, and returned home with the idea that a...
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