"I smoked my first cigarette when I was six years old.... Now where the hell can I get a cigarette?"
The year is 1949 and Nora, a prickly, strong-willed survivor of the Holocaust, has just walked off the boat in Haifa with her German daughter-in-law, Louisa. Nora expects to be met by her cousin Bela, a Zionist and war hero she has loved since they were children. But Bela fails to appear, and the women enter an absorption camp for immigrants to await an uncertain future. How will they fit into a society that does not believe in looking back? Louisa, the daughter of Nazi parents, proves a genius at self-invention-in many ways the perfect Israeli. Nora is neither heroic nor optimistic, yet she has no other home. When rumors swirl around the camp, she responds with a cranky and ironic distance that rises like a wall of barbed wire. What is she protecting behind that wall? The past, and its secrets.
In Louisa, Simone Zelitch brings to life, with all the authority and inventive power of an old master, a story of hidden passion, broken dreams, and unexpected reconciliation. Stranded in a new land that asks them to look to the future, both women are forced to face the past and the responsibility each bears for what they have lost. Nora knows how to survive. Louisa must teach her how to forgive.
I smoked my first cigarette when I was six years old. I found it on the kitchen windowsill, though the railway platform proved more reliable. The butts I gathered on that platform made terrible, gritty cigarettes, hardly worth re-rolling, yet to my mind, they're all mixed up with where I smoked them, by the tracks. I loved the trains, window after window of Budapesti smokers who would carry cigarettes to theaters, lectures, and cafés. I'd do those things too. But later there would also be smokes passed, like gifts, between strangers in the dark.
Now where the hell can I get a cigarette? Everyone in Israel is a smoker, but nobody gets something for nothing, and what do I have to trade? Not that my head's the clearest. We're just off the boat, Louisa and I, and we expected my cousin, Bela, to meet us at the dock, but he wasn't there. We went through customs, and there were so many of us piling in at once that we were backed up for hours. By the ...
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A straight-ahead story of human passiondesire, conviction, and the guilt of a survivorstruggling for order within the frayed justice of the Middle East conflict.
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The Steady Running of the Hour
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