Karen's Reviews > Homesick

Homesick by Eshkol Nevo
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's review
Jul 03, 2008

liked it
bookshelves: read-in-hebrew
Recommended to Karen by: My grandmother
Read in August, 2008

So the first question that came to my (actually Anthony's) mind when I started reading this book was, WTF, did my grandmother ghost-write this thing? There are several reasons to believe that she did: (a) she is a relatively successful writer (mainly of children's books) in Israel, (b) she recommended this book to me, bought me a copy four years ago and proceeded to ask me several times whether I'd read it yet, (c) for no particular reason, the author points out that one of the characters works in Ramat Hen, which is the neighborhood where my parents live in Ramat Gan - and who the hell has heard of that neighborhood? and (d) there is a couple in the book named Moshe and Sima, and those are her PARENTS' names! And OK, I'll admit that Moshe is a super common name in Israel, but Sima isn't, and Moshe AND Sima? Together?!

On second thought, she probably didn't write this, because there are quite a few (really mild) sex scenes here, and not once does anyone mention feeling anyone else's erection through their pants. And that is one of her trademarks. I know, ew.

So assuming that Eshkol Nevo is a real person and the actual author of this book, I'll just say that though this wasn't the deepest or best written piece of literature I've picked up in the past year, it was definitely an enjoyable read - probably a lot more enjoyable than most of the deeper and better books out there. Also, it's in divided into teeny tiny little pieces, with alternating points of view (I'm on the fence about whether I liked this or not), so it's perfect for the subway.

The story is set in the mid-90s, when both Kurt Cobain and Itzhak Rabin died. It's about two couples who share a wall in a duplex in an Israeli neighborhood called the Kastel - described in the book as a town midway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The structure invites some potentially disastrous racial stereotyping - on one side we have Amir and Noa, white bourgeois university students, she's studying photography at the Bezalel art school and he's studying psychology at Tel Aviv University; and on the other side are the Kurdish Moshe and Sima, he's a bus driver, she's curvy and outspoken and takes care of the kids and cooks a lot. But it seems that Nevo makes a serious effort to consider each character as a human being and to present them all in three dimensions. The book is full of middle-school-type revelations ("You know, you can really tell a lot about a person by the kind of music they listen to"), but I thought that was kind of sweet. For Israelis, I think the book was very Israeli in that reassuring "in Israel you can define pretty much anyone in two words" kind of way, meaning that you don't have to work too hard to feel like you understand where the different characters are coming from. The one thing that drove me up the wall was that some of the passages - for no apparent reason - were written in rhyme. I really, really hope that the English translator decided to forgo that particular stylistic flourish.
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