Human Parts

Overview

It was an exceptional winter.

With deceptive understatement, Orly Castel-Bloom draws back the curtain on her disturbing, revelatory novel set in Israel during the Al Aksa intifada. This is a world already regularly interrupted by terrorist ambushes and suicide bombs. And now it is further plagued—by a Saudi flu that is decimating the population, and by the apocalyptic weather that brings a ruinous winter after eight years of drought. The ...

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Overview

It was an exceptional winter.

With deceptive understatement, Orly Castel-Bloom draws back the curtain on her disturbing, revelatory novel set in Israel during the Al Aksa intifada. This is a world already regularly interrupted by terrorist ambushes and suicide bombs. And now it is further plagued—by a Saudi flu that is decimating the population, and by the apocalyptic weather that brings a ruinous winter after eight years of drought. The economy is shot to pieces. Hail stones as big as dinner plates are falling from the sky.

And yet, against this backdrop of monumental affliction, ordinary people are still trying to lead normal lives. Kati Beit-Halahmi, an impoverished cleaner, is snatched up by a community television program and given her full fifteen-minutes-of-fame. Iris Ventura, divorced with three children, is wondering how she can afford both to replace her broken washing machine and have some essential dental work done. And the Israeli president, Reuven Tekoa, travels from hospital to funeral, musing on the state of the nation from the back of his limousine.

Orly Castel-Bloom spins a web of filament-fine connections between her characters, whose preoccupations, she reminds us, are not so very different from our own. Death or disaster might intrude at any moment, but people still watch game shows on TV, go to the laundromat and train to be beauticians.

Holding a mirror up to her country, Castel-Bloom show us a society in microcosm, struggling for continuity and normalcy in a fractured world. Sardonic, topical and wholly engrossing, this is a novel capturing the maelstrom of impossible contradictions that is Israeli life today.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Israeli writer Castel-Bloom invents a bitterly cold winter and an outbreak of the Saudian flu in this richly satiric if occasionally heavy-handed novel. Kati Beit-Halahmi, a desperately poor cleaning woman, gets a peek inside the glamorous media world when a news organization runs a feature on the plight of her family. The excitement of the experience makes her realize she can never return to her former life. Graphic artist Iris Ventura is a twice-spurned mother of three, also struggling financially. Determination is the common thread that links Kati and Iris as they fight to survive the unusually cold winter and keep food in their children's mouths. Denied adequate child support, Iris is kept financially afloat with occasional odd jobs from her unlikable asthmatic ex-boyfriend, Adir, who is himself distraught by his sister's death from the Saudian flu. Castel-Bloom's talent for creating complex female characters the reader instantly connects with is somewhat undermined by her tendency to draw all the male characters as flat and unsympathetic. Adir's new Ethiopian girlfriend, Tasaro, suffered much hardship to emigrate to Israel and wants nothing more than to marry her lover, but he continually rebuffs her proposals. "They'll tear us to pieces. They'll turn us into a `mixed couple'... the black woman and the white man. When we walk down the street they'll say: Here come the dominoes.... You don't realize where you are.... Israeli society will snicker at our expense." Though predictable general pronouncements blunt the novel's effect, Castel-Bloom's insights into human weaknesses and self-interest are wickedly precise. (Dec.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This disturbing, apocalyptic novel takes place in Israel during the Al Aksa intifada, which exploded after Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount. Suicide attacks and terrorist bombings are increasing, heavy snows plague the country, and a "Saudi Flu" has decimated the population. As if this weren't enough, the economy is in ruins. In this fast-paced novel, noted Israeli novelist Castel-Bloom considers how four typical but very different people survive all this turmoil. Kati and Tasaro are new immigrants, hailing from Kurdistan and Ethiopia, respectively. Kati grew up in a transit camp and never finished grade school. When her husband, Boaz, chose to marry her, he was disinherited. Tasaro's family scorns her because necessity forced her to become a sex worker at the central bus station. Her current partner, Adir, saved her from ruin, helping her become a TV model. Meanwhile, Adir's former girlfriend, Iris, is destroyed by their breakup and goes into a tailspin. Although such Kafkaesque portrayals sound bleak, hope does exist in this example of social realism. A well-written, engrossing, and captivating narrative.-Molly Abramowitz, Silver Spring, MD Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781567922561
  • Publisher: Godine, David R. Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/28/2003
  • Edition description: First U.S.
  • Pages: 250
  • Sales rank: 386,810
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.28 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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