Summary and book reviews of Edges by Leora Skolkin-Smith

Edges

O Israel O Palestine

by Leora Skolkin-Smith

Edges
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  • Paperback:
    Sep 2005, 176 pages

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Book Summary

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.

Edges is set in a pre-1967 Israel, during the Cold War. Liana Bialik is fourteen years old when the suicide of her American father forces her family to return to her mother's native Jerusalem. A chance meeting with a runaway American diplomat's son in the forest draws Liana into an odyssey of borders, loss, and love. After witnessing the accidental death of a young Arab boy caught in a crossfire between snipers, Liana is impelled to confront her conflicts about identity and culpability. She must choose between following the paths of darkness that have kept her bound to her grieving and engulfing mother and her own sexual self-discovery . Characters are drawn from Israel's long-forgotten past, members of the 1940's Haganah and Jewish underground who find themselves displaced amidst the chaotic and complex tensions of an Israel just beginning to modernize and expand. Liana learns about her mother's childhood in the ancient city, and her past in the wars. Places and dates eventually yield to timeless truths as she is able to use this heritage as her own mystical starting point.

  • Nominee for PEN/Hemingway Award for First Fiction, 2006
  • A 'Virginia Festival of The Book' Selection, 2006.
     

May 2009: Hamilton Stone Editions, Ltd. will be publishing an expanded version of Edges as The Fragile Mistress - a movie movie tie-in version for the feature film now in development with Triboro Pictures, and currently part of the Cannes Film Festival's Producer's Development Lab.

"I flicked on the passenger light above my head.

By my wristwatch it was only three thirty-seven p.m., New York time, but, when I gazed out the plane window, the sky was full of coal-like clouds.

"Want some chocolate?" My mother held an 18-ounce duty-free bar of Hershey's almond chocolate under my nose. "It's seven more hours until we reach Tel Aviv, will you survive?"

"No," I said.

That summer, Jordan had given the few Israeli descendants of the ancient city permission to dig up the graves on the Mount of Olives and transport the souls and skeletons of their lost ones to the other side of the border.

My mother, my sister, Ivy and I sat on a packed El Al plane on our way to Jerusalem to participate in a ceremony for an uncle I had never met.

Dot Elizar had been buried, my mother said, in the mixed cemetery among the Arab and Jewish war heroes before the ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. In the beginning of the novel, how would you describe Liana's feelings and attitude towards her mother? How do Liana's feelings about her mother change during the course of the novel?

     
  2. How does the author use the physical geography of Israel as it relates to Liana's own personal growth? How do the rough and raw territories of pre-1967 Jerusalem play a role, reflecting Liana's inner battles? What is the significance of all the geographical boundaries or lack of boundaries of her mother's land?

     
  3. Why do you think Skolkin-Smith chose to make Liana's lover an American diplomat?

     
  4. After William leaves Liana, she decides to return to her mother and Jerusalem. Why...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Author Blurb Oscar Hijuelos, author of The Mambo King Sings Songs of Love
Edges is an elegantly written, quite moving novel that has a lot to say about love, identity, history and the meaning of nationality. The book is worth reading alone for its superb language, but it is gripping and unforgettable as well in its story telling and evocation of place and emotions. It is a wonderful novel by an author with a quite accomplished voice and style, one well deserving a wide and receptive audience.

Author Blurb Caroline Leavitt, author of Girls in Trouble and Coming Back to Me
Where, and how and to whom do we really belong? Skolkin's brilliant debut novel is a hypnotic meditation on the ever-changing boundaries of love and need. A coming of age story of the bond between a young American and her powerful mother, etched in a wartime Mideast as shifting and dangerous and mysterious as the Israeli desert.

Author Blurb Philip Graham, Director, Creative Writing Program, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Edges takes the reader to an Israel before the high walls formed a border, when instead metal wires hung like "hosiery lines" across the land...Here, Skolkin-Smith's young heroine tries to shake off her father's suicide and her mother's mourning by making an escape with the missing son of an American diplomat...Skolkin-Smith, in clear, burnished prose, fuses personal and political rifts into an exhilarating debut novel.

Author Blurb Katharine Weber, author of The Little Women and The Music Lesson
Edges is an elegant and moving novel. Leora Skolkin-Smith has that rare gift of the writer who can convey the sensibility - the essence of a place and its people - with precision and clarity. A provocative debut.

Author Blurb Mark Mirsky, writer and founder of Fiction Magazine, and Professor of English at City College of New York.
In Edges Leora Skolkin-Smith skillfully tells the story of a girl of fourteen in the wake of her father's suicide, brought abruptly by her distraught mother from a comfortable suburban Westchester to the harsh terrain of a young State of Israel. The girl is caught in the maelstrom of political claims between Israel and a West Bank, still part of the Kingdom of Jordan. The turmoil both of the girl and her mother is graphically detailed as they struggle to define themselves in the light of a haunted past and present. The poetry of the girl's sexual awakening ripples through many pages, softening the fierce realities of the conflict between Arab and Jew. The pages evoke as well the memories of a shared land, and the mother's childhood growing up in an old Jerusalem before the city was separated by physical barriers, the religious, cultural, divide between Arab and Jew easier to bridge. The author's vivid sense of landscape, her gift for identifying with both mother and daughter, Arab and Jew, gives the novel a unique sense of balance and brings the reader, regardless of political conviction into sympathy with this portrait of a vanished Jerusalem. Edges is a powerful evocation of lost worlds which it is a joy to wander back into.

Reader Reviews

Shelley Hunt

unique and riveting
It took me only a few days to read Edges,this book blew me away. It is hypnotic, frightening--the feeling of danger never let up, not for a second. It is beautiful, visceral--I think of it and smell oranges and desert (I grew up in a desert), and oh-...   Read More

Jamie Callan

Compelling and quite beautifully written debut novel
I enjoyed Leora Skolkin-Smith's powerful debut novel "Edges" very much. It's a deeply felt and authentic book written in lyrical and compelling language, telling a universal story about mothers and daughters. The geography of Israel is especially ...   Read More

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