• Paperback: 416 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 11, 2015)
Through a largely hidden ceremony . . . four friends discover the true meaning of life
It’s 2006 in a seaside village in Israel, where a war is brewing. Lauren, Emily, Aviva and Rachel, four memorable women from different backgrounds, are drawn to the village. Lauren, a maternity nurse, loves her Israeli doctor husband but struggles to make a home for herself in a foreign land thousands of miles away from her beloved Boston. Seeking a fresh start after a divorce, her vivacious friend Emily follows. Strong, sensuous Aviva, brought to Israel years earlier by intelligence work, has raised a family and now lost a son. And Rachel, a beautiful, idealistic college graduate from Wyoming, arrives with her hopeful dreams.
The women forge a friendship that sustains them as they come to terms with love and loss, and the outbreak of war. Their intimate bond is strengthened by their participation in a traditional ritual that closes the circle of life. As their lives are slowly transformed, each finds unexpected strength and resilience.
Brimming with wisdom, rich in meaningful insights, A Remarkable Kindness is a moving testament to women’s friendship, illuminating a mostly unknown ritual that underscores what it means to truly be alive.
Buy, read, and discuss A Remarkable Kindness
Diana Bletter is a writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Commentary. Her first book, The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women, with photographs by Lori Grinker, was shortlisted for a National Jewish Book Award. In 1991, she moved from New York to a seaside village in northern Israel where she lives with her husband and children, and volunteers in a burial circle.
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I’ve had this novel on my kindle for months, and I read it when I first downloaded it (but stupidly didn’t write the draft for the review), so my thoughts are a bit musty, but my first impression, meeting Aviva outside the burial house, and seeing her seek shelter during a bombing was that this was no sweet piece of literary fiction, but a gem of a story that offered a great blend of contemporary Israeli/Palestinian politics, gritty reality, and excellent character work, and I was not wrong. In fact when I next met Laura, transplanted from Boston to Peleg with her new husband (well, new-ish, they’ve been married about a year) I was hooked.
But it’s not enough to have two women at the heart of this story, for author Bletter introduces us to Laura’s friend Emily, and college student Rachel, each of whom also comes to Israel for her own reason.
Eventually of course Aviva and Laura, Emily and Rachel, all become friends and true compatriots, and their burgeoning friendship is an integral part of this story, but the politics and the harsh reality of daily life in a small Israeli village are equally important, and Diana Bletter does an excellent job of giving us a look at these four women and their lives as well as the bigger picture of life in Peleg and how it relates to the region – and the world – as a home.
Literature with Jewish themes has been a recurring thing for me this year, quite by accident, and I’ve really enjoyed the various glimpses into a culture that is at once similar to and very different from the middle-class American life I lead.
Some of the most beautiful and haunting sections of A Remarkable Kindness were the scenes directly relating to burial circles, and I found myself quite drawn to the simple spirituality displayed.
Goes well with fresh baked challah with golden raisins, and strong coffee.
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