Love, loyalty and man’s destructiveness to the earth and humankind are at the root of this complex novel by Norma Harari, published posthumously.
Josephina Koenigsburger, the book’s main character, is a freelance journalist from Manhattan on assignment in Israel during the 1980s. Her task is to interview the chairman of an energy conservation council, a man suspected of being deeply connected to a chemical company polluting the eastern Mediterranean. While there, Josephina decides to reunite with Gloria, a woman she met years before on a trip to the Holy Land.
While Josephina has chosen a jet-setting life with a trail of lovers and little time for family and home, Gloria stayed in Israel where she has married a simple man and raised a family amid the continuing turmoil in the Middle East. Their conversation is anything but pleasant as they spar over their vast social and ethical differences while discussing everything from the state of Israel and the U.S., religion, man’s destructiveness and the symbolic mandrake root, believed to bring fertility to the barren.
Harari’s book is an amalgam of people, places and times past and present, multilayered like the peels of an onion. At times, the words gush at a rate that makes it hard to follow, and are sometimes angry, intense and opinionated. Other lines are pleasantly descriptive and poetic: “Her eyes are startled buttons; the wrinkles above her lips purple furrows.” Or this: “And the girl from Marseilles riding this bus, a bubble in the timeless desert, caresses the dark downed leg of the boy too frail to be noticed in a crowd.” Minor flaws include occasionally repetitive information and editing blips, perhaps because this work was incomplete when someone chose to publish it.
Those who prefer thought-provoking books that offer no easy answers on coping with the messiness of life should enjoy the creative sparring between these two intelligent women, caught up in their own tangled circumstances.
Also available as an ebook.