Review: Between Friends by Amos Oz

I watched Natalie Portman’s A Tale of Love and Darkness last year, which is based on the autobiographical novel of the same name by Israeli author Amos Oz. But this collection of eight short stories was my first read by the author and now I’m intrigued to find more of his works.

Amos Oz’s compelling new fiction offers revelatory glimpses into the secrets and frustrations of the human heart, played out by a community of misfits united by political disagreement, intense dissatisfaction and lifetimes of words left unspoken.

Ariella, unhappy in love, confides in the woman whose husband she stole; Nahum, a devoted father, can’t find the words to challenge his daughter’s promiscuous lover; the old idealists deplore the apathy of the young, while the young are so used to kibbutz life that they can’t work out if they’re impassioned or indifferent. Arguments about war, government, travel and children are feverishly taken up and quickly abandoned – and amid this group of people unwilling and unable to say what they mean, Martin attempts to teach Esperanto.

While Between Friends was certainly a quick read, only two tales out of the eight stood out in my eyes. The first one being the introducing story, “The King of Norway,” which chronicles the life of Zvi Provizor, a middle-age bachelor who likes to carry the sorrows of the world on his shoulders. (“Closing your eyes to the cruelty of life is, in my opinion, both stupid and sinful. There’s very little we can do about it. So we have to at least acknowledge it.”)

This story resonated deeply with its discussions of Provizor’s emotional issues, in particular the fact that he doesn’t like being touched.

“Never in his adult life had he touched another person intentionally, and he went rigid whenever he was touched. He loved the feel of loose earth and the softness of young stems, but the touch of others, men or women, caused his entire body to stiffen and contract as if he’d been burned. He always tried to avoid handshakes, pats on the back, or the accidental rubbing of elbows at the table in the dining hall.”

And the following tale I liked was titled “Father,” which follows sixteen-year-old Moshe Yashar with his quiet and gentle manner. It delivered everything I didn’t know I wanted from this collection. And the one thing that stood out the most was this next paragraph on animal cruelty and veganism.

“Someday, Moshe thought, a future generation will call us murderers, unable to comprehend how we could eat the flesh of creatures like ourselves, rob them of the feel of the earth and the smell of the grass, hatch them in automatic incubators, raise them in crowded cages, force-feed them, steal all their eggs before they hatch, and finally, slit their throats, pluck their feathers, tear them limb from limb, gorge ourselves on them and drool and lick the fat from our lips.”

Such a powerful passage to secure my ongoing interest. To paraphrase Moshe, I kept finding myself deeply touched by the enigmas contained in these pages. Discussing “big, simple truths: loneliness and longing, desire and death.”

However, one subtle thing I noticed the more I read on was how similarly the inner qualities of the narrators were described. The word ‘quiet’ was used an absurd amount of times to describe every single one of them. We had quietly persistent,” quiet” and composed,” quiet persistence,” etc. So either the translator or the author went a little overboard… And this then lead to each short story blending into the next one, until it became difficult to distinguish the voices.

On a brighter note, I did enjoy the fact that all the tales were connected in one way or another, so that we got closure on certain storylines that weren’t quite finished before. Also, I cherished the fact that these quietly moving stories were set on around the kibbutz movement.

All in all: This was a great introduction to Amos Oz’s writing style and I’m eager to continue on.

3/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Between Friends, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Review: The Atlas of Beauty by Mihaela Noroc

This collection seemed like the perfect blend between Strong Is the New Pretty by Kate T. Parker and Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York. So the wait to get approved for this ARC was nearly excruciating with me checking my emails every day for a week. But I’m glad to say that it lived up to the hype I created in my mind.

Since 2013 photographer Mihaela Noroc has traveled the world with her backpack and camera taking photos of everyday women to showcase the diversity of beauty all around us. The Atlas of Beauty is a collection of her photographs celebrating women from all corners of the world, revealing that beauty is everywhere, and that it comes in many different sizes and colors. Noroc’s colorful and moving portraits feature women in their local communities, ranging from the Amazon rainforest to London city streets, and from markets in India to parks in Harlem, visually juxtaposing the varied physical and social worlds these women inhabit. Packaged as a gift-worthy, hardcover book, The Atlas of Beauty presents a fresh perspective on the global lives of women today.

I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for the women featured in here. They bring dignity, strength, and inner beauty that shines from page to page. From each of them I learned or was reminded of something new, whether that be tolerance, kindness, resilience, natural and authentic beauty, serenity, strength, and generosity. Plus, the vibrant and colorful photographs really brought something new to the table.

However, as captivating as the images were, I feel like the words that accompanied them, save for a few, failed to move me. In comparison to the collections I mentioned at the start of my review, it was difficult to ignore how bland the text is. I wanted to see what lies beneath the surface, to feel like we’re getting to know the person in front of us… But again, save for a few, I rarely encountered it in this collection. Also: I’m low-key sad that the utterly powerful cover picture wasn’t included in here.

On a brighter note, I’d love to share the photographs of the enthralling women that captivated me:

The Atlas of Beauty 1-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 2-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 4-- bookspoils

Pokhara, Nepal:The Atlas of Beauty 3-- bookspoils

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan:The Atlas of Beauty 5-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 6-- bookspoilsThe Atlas of Beauty 7-- bookspoils

New York, USA:The Atlas of Beauty 8-- bookspoils

Wakhan Corridor, Afghanistan:The Atlas of Beauty 9-- bookspoils

Tehran, Iran:The Atlas of Beauty 10-- bookspoils

Nampan, Myanmar:The Atlas of Beauty 11-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 12-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 13-- bookspoils

 

Amazon Rainforest, Ecuador:The Atlas of Beauty 14-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 15-- bookspoils

I was truly surprised to see Eden Saban in the above, since she’s quite well-known in Israel, thanks to being on the last season of Big Brother. So now I’m quite eager to find out if the author randomly stumbled upon her and asked for a picture, or if they set this up….

The Atlas of Beauty 16-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 17-- bookspoils

On that bitter-sweet note, the sharp women and girls featured in The Atlas of Beauty have made a new fan out of me. I’m definitely interested in keeping up with Mihaela Noroc’s photography works next in the making.

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: September 26th, 2017

5/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying The Atlas of Beauty, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Review: The Worlds We Think We Know by Dalia Rosenfeld

First thing first, I have to mention that the cover for this short story collection is utterly mind-blowing with its detailed beauty. There’s just so much to let sink in and the color scheme only adds to it. I mean:The Worlds We Think We Know-- bookspoilsThis debut collection of stories takes readers from the United States to Israel—and back—to examine the mystifying reaches of our own minds and hearts.

The characters of The Worlds We Think We Know are swept up by forces beyond their control: war, adulthood, family—and their own emotions, as powerful as the sandstorm that gusts through these stories. In Ohio, a college student cruelly enlists the help of the boy who loves her to attract the attention of her own crush. In Israel, a young American woman visits an uncommunicative Holocaust survivor and falls in love with a soldier. And from an unnamed Eastern European country, a woman haunts the husband who left her behind for a new life in New York City.

It never fails to feel refreshing to read twenty short stories set around Jewish main characters living either in Israel or the United States. (Though, I personally found the Israeli chapters to be a bit more enjoyable because of the Hebrew references.) Plus, coming into this right after having finished Suddenly, a Knock on the Door by Etgar Keret put me in the perfect mindset. The quiet and subtle energy surrounding Dalia Rosenfeld’s tales pulled me into the collection a tenfold.

Though some tales were a bit confusing to wrap my head around, I still really enjoyed immersing myself in this exploration of immigrants, Holocaust survivors, Yiddish literature (Mendele Mocher Sforim, Shalom Aleichem, Isaac Bashevis Singer), and that feeling of getting caught up in your favorite book while ignoring your surroundings for days to come. Speaking of the latter, here’s a paragraph that gets me on a whole new level:

“Those seven days were like a shivah for me that I marked not by sitting on a low stool and covering the mirrors, but by ordering takeout and letting dust accumulate in every corner of the house. If the cast of characters had been able to stand up and take a bow at the end of the book, the week would have been much easier for all of us to get through—not just for me, but for everyone in my family, who knew to stay away from me whenever I had the book in my hand. It was the double dying that made it so hard, the fiction interchangeable with the fact.”

There is undeniably a quiet beauty to this book. Full of moving stories circling the ordinary and extraordinary, The Worlds We Think We Know is a keeper from the start.

Plus, I’m incredible thankful that this collection made me discover and add a ton of new authors to my to-read list, thanks to the many mentions of classic Yiddish literature.

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Publication Date: May 16th, 2017

4/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying The Worlds We Think We Know, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!