Wall of Light

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A powerful and unforgettable story of secrets, family, love, and destiny set against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Following on the heels of the critically acclaimed Ten Thousand Lovers (finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award) and Look for Me, A Wall of Light tells the story of three generations of a Tel Aviv family. Meet Anna, whose passionate letters to a lover she left behind in Russia describe the experiences of Israel's postwar immigrants; ...

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Overview

A powerful and unforgettable story of secrets, family, love, and destiny set against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Following on the heels of the critically acclaimed Ten Thousand Lovers (finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award) and Look for Me, A Wall of Light tells the story of three generations of a Tel Aviv family. Meet Anna, whose passionate letters to a lover she left behind in Russia describe the experiences of Israel's postwar immigrants; her grandson, Noah, who in his diary documents his uncertain sexual identity and his idealism in the face of the tense political climate; and finally, Anna's daughter, Sonya, who takes us through one momentous day in August, a day on which she "kissed a student, pursued a lover, found her father, and left her brother."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ravel's third novel chronicles a belated emotional and sexual coming-of-age for 32-year-old Israeli math professor Sonya Vronsky. Rounding out the cast of characters are Sonya's mother, Anna, a Russian immigrant to Israel in the 1950s, and Sonya's nephew, Noah. Anna tells her story through letters to the married lover she left behind in Russia, while Noah expresses his experiences as a sexually ambivalent adolescent in 1980s Israel in diary form. Though Ravel strives for historical panorama with the shifting chronological perspectives, the novel's pace decelerates whenever Anna or Noah take center stage-Sonya's story is the most compelling though the least credible. Deafened by childhood illness, Sonya was further traumatized when she was raped and beaten as a teenager. With no sexual experience other than the rape, she considers herself a virgin and determines to change her life by seducing an Arabic taxi driver. Sonya spends the rest of the novel pursuing him through the Palestinian neighborhoods of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, a plot Ravel uses to illuminate Israel's deep racial and political strife. Ravel is not a subtle storyteller, but some readers may feel engaged by the sympathetic nature of Sonya's character, as well as by the complex, tense backdrop of modern-day Israel. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In this third book in a trilogy that includes Ten Thousand Lovers and Look for Me, also set in Tel Aviv and featuring a woman separated from the man she loves, we meet three generations of the Vronsky family. Noah, who begins a diary when he is ten and ends after his army service, writes with humor about his sexual identity, political ambivalence, and family relationships. His grandmother, Anna, writes letters in the late 1950s to a lover in Russia, detailing the experiences of postwar immigrants in her newfound Israel and her efforts to become an actress. Anna's daughter, narrator Sonya, is a deaf professor of mathematics at Tel Aviv University who falls hopelessly in love with a Palestinian taxi driver and follows him to the heart of Jerusalem. Like its predecessors, this concluding volume focuses on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the toll it takes on human lives and especially on relationships. Here, however, the three narrators weave the story together most effectively, showing that while war is a destructive force, love is powerful as well. Ravel writes poignantly about survival and hope in the midst of tragedy. Recommended for all libraries.-Molly Abramowitz, Silver Spring, MD Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
The scotiabank Giller Prize finalist
Finalist for the Regional commonwealth writers’ prize

“Ravel has written a book that shimmers with suspense, mystery and wit. Tell your friends.”
Toronto Star

“Like the great Israeli novelist Amos Oz, Ravel employs the contemporary family unit – a group of disparate people thrown together by genetics or happenstance, loyal to one another despite their differences, and planning for a shared future they can’t predict – as the ideal metaphor for the Jewish state…. She recognizes the cynicism and anger felt by those who have suffered, and her valuable novel offers the simple wish that they will feel love, too – for each other and for life itself.”
The Globe and Mail

“Edeet Ravel has managed, once again, to write about Arab-Israeli politics without doing any violence to art. This is no mean feat, considering how things are in the Middle East today…. It’s fiction, but it makes for more satisfying reading than the facts.”
The Gazette (Montreal)

“Ravel is a master of conserving detail and uses it in an almost painterly fashion, while leaving us with the sense of a mystery unravelling teasingly before us…. Ravel’s Vronskys are always determined in their apparently insensible decision-making. What makes them appealing is Ravel’s skill for portraying a sense of universality.”
Jewish Independent

“If you want to get a feel for what the texture of life is like in Israel, these are your novels.” –Ottawa Citizen

“Ravel is a strong, politically astute writer and scholar.”
Quill & Quire

Praise for Look for Me:
"[Look for Me] is a novel with a strong moral centre, one that argues forcibly and honourably for an end to hatred and violence. . .The dialogue is crisp, the plot compelling, and the glimpses of the ongoing war are powerful. Not a false note anywhere."
—Cynthia Holz, The Globe and Mail

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060761479
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/31/2006
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Edeet Ravel was born on an Israeli kibbutz and completed graduate studies in English at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is the recipient of several writing awards, including the Norma Epstein Award for her poetry. She holds a Ph.D. in Jewish studies from McGill University and has taught creative writing, English literature, Holocaust studies and biblical exegesis. She has one daughter.

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Read an Excerpt

A Wall of Light


By Edeet Ravel

Random House

Edeet Ravel
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0679313532


Chapter One

Sonya
I am SonyaVronsky, professor of mathematics atTel Aviv University, and this is the story of a day in late August. On this remarkable day I kissed a student, pursued a lover, found my father, and left my brother.

The morning began with a series of sneezes. The sneezes interrupted a dream I was having about a glass-walled elevator that had left its shaft and was shooting about wildly through immense futuristic building complexes. Like something out of Asimov, I thought. I was just starting to enjoy both the sensation and the spectacle when the sneezes woke me.

I like to sleep with the shutters open; I like to feel the sun on my body as soon as I wake. A warm, luminous world awaits me - or so I imagine. Ordinarily, I would have switched off the air-conditioning, opened the window and looked out at our garden; I would have turned my face toward the sky and breathed in the sweet, tyrannous August air. But today my sneezing distracted me. My late-summer allergies were kicking in.

I sat up in my queen-sized bed and reached for the box of rainbow-colored tissues on the night table. I set the box between my knees, which were protruding like two islands from under the sheets. A boxy ship, precariously balanced.

My mother, who slept next to me when I was little, always accompanied her good-night kiss with a quote-affectionate if she was sober ("Come, live with me, and be my love," for example), gloomier if she was inebriated ("Out, out, brief candle!").Then she'd turn off the light and I'd snuggle up against her lace nightgown, breathe in her cinnamon perfume. My mother was a night bird; when she woke she was not in a quoting mood. But I am the opposite, more inclined toward poetry in the morning than at bedtime, and I suppose my choices are also somewhat less formal than hers. "You are old, Father William . . . ," I began, but didn't finish; a sneeze interrupted me.

Kostya, my darling brother, appeared in the doorway, dark and shadowy because the light was behind him. With his trimmed gray beard and his tall, still body he looked like a character in a French film from the 1960s, a film about alienation and ennui, with the male lead dark and brooding. In fact, he was there to offer me an antihistamine. My brother has very low tolerance for disruption, and the sneezes were annoying him.

But I'm being unfair: he was also trying to help. My poor brother lives with the guilt of my two catastrophes, neither of which he had anything to do with. Human error lay behind the first disaster: twenty years ago, when I was twelve, I was taken to the hospital with a kidney infection, and some nurse or doctor or hospital pharmacist gave me the wrong dose of the wrong drug. I moved into another dimension, spooky at first, frightening at first, then surreal, and finally exotic or ridiculous, depending on the day. I lost my hearing.

And human evil, which no one can entirely avoid, accounts for the artillery unleashed at me in an empty university classroom by stoned twin teenagers with shaven heads and dragon tattoos.

But guilt has a way of insinuating itself into the path of any series of events leading to a given outcome. Kostya believes, for example, that had he fixed our broken toilet, I would not have come down with a kidney infection in the first place. The toilet howled and groaned like a ghoul in chains and I was afraid to use it; my solution was to drink less in order to limit my visits to the bathroom. I didn't tell anyone about my aversion; had Kostya known, he would have attended to the problem. And then, had I not been deaf I might have heard the twins before seeing them (this is really stretching it) and escaped in time. These are tenuous links but well entrenched in our family mythology.

"Do you want an allergy pill?" my brother asked, speaking as he signed. "It's non-soporific." We'd developed so many signing shortcuts and private gestures over the years that by now we almost had our own language.

"Oh ...kay!" I managed to say between sneezes. He vanished and returned with a small yellow pill, his heartbreaking offering of the morning, nestled in the palm of his large, intelligent hand. In his other hand he held a small bottle of Eden spring water.

I obediently swallowed the pill. "You're lucky I'm so nice to you," I said.

My brother smiled. It would be no exaggeration to say that he suffers from my misfortunes more than I ever did. He should take comfort in the fact that I have a good life, that I have fun-and maybe he does, to some degree. Maybe not. It's hard to know for sure.

"Tell me when you're ready for breakfast," he said.

I blew him a kiss and he left the room. My briefcase was next to the night table, and I emptied its contents in front of me. Exams, articles, receipts, notes and miscellaneous slips of paper floated out angelically and settled on the bed. I organized them all efficiently and quickly.Then I waddled to the bathroom like a goose headed for its mud pond, and had a shower. There is nothing quite as wonderful and endlessly surprising as a soft, heavy stream of hot water falling on one's shoulders and down one's body. I was filled with gratitude, as I always am during the first few moments of a shower, that something so lovely exists on this planet, and I was only sorry that it was not available to everyone. A few kilometers away, there was not even enough drinking water.

But, inexcusably, my sense of guilt soon faded, and as I ran the soapy sea sponge along my legs I succumbed completely to the pleasures of my morning shower.


Excerpted from A Wall of Light by Edeet Ravel Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Foreword

1. Most of the characters in this novel are outsiders. How does their outsider status shape their perspective? How is this perspective used to reflect on Israeli culture and history?

2. Consider the three parallel narratives that make up A Wall of Light. How does each of them contribute to our understanding of the birth and struggle of a new nation?

3. The walls that Sonya encounters when she reaches Jerusalem are part of the separation barrier that is being built by Israel in the West Bank. How is it linked to other more figurative barriers in the lives of the characters of A Wall of Light?

4. When Sonya finally arrives at Khalid’s home, they have an intense discussion about whether what happens to us changes us irrevocably or whether we can choose to resist what has happened to us by how we react to it or by refusing to dwell on it. Khalid says: “Everything changes us, everything.… All that happens stays with us (200).” Sonya says of her assault: “People think I was affected by what happened but I wasn’t.… It’s like having a cold and then getting over it. Nothing’s changed. I’m exactly the same (200).”
Do you believe that one of these philosophies is true? Are these simply two different ways of coping with the life events that happen to us? Is one necessarily better than another?

5. Sonya’s math teacher, a Holocaust survivor, is the only one who understands Sonya’s attitude. What does this tell us about the relationship between the Holocaust and Israel’s history?

6. When Noah reflects on his experience in the army he comments:“A sort of emotional fatigue takes over, because a person gets tired of caring, just tired, that’s what it is. But now I wonder whether it stays with you forever, that tiredness–maybe you think it’s going to be temporary but then you realize it’s who you are now (204).”
Are there other places in the novel where resignation to the political turmoil and violence of Israel is evident? How does each of the characters cope with the political realities?

7. Sonya’s Beersheba teacher, reflecting on her wartime experience, tells her: “We passed the time by imagining and inventing our futures, the wonderful lives that awaited us. Imagination is the only thing that can save you in this life, Sonya. But to imagine alone is irresponsible, it hurts others. Imagination must be shared, it must be a collective enterprise (133).”
How does each of the characters in the novel use his or her imagination to respond to pain and suffering. Why is imagining alone irresponsible?

8. How do the various truths Sonya discovers throughout the novel set her free? Do you think that some of the secrets (who her father is, how Iris died) should have been kept from her?

9. What is the symbolic role of Sonya’s deafness?

10. Many of the characters in A Wall of Light are searching for something. What is it that Anna, Sonya, Noah and Kostya are searching for and are any of them successful in their search?

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Reading Group Guide

1. Most of the characters in this novel are outsiders. How does their outsider status shape their perspective? How is this perspective used to reflect on Israeli culture and history?

2. Consider the three parallel narratives that make up A Wall of Light. How does each of them contribute to our understanding of the birth and struggle of a new nation?

3. The walls that Sonya encounters when she reaches Jerusalem are part of the separation barrier that is being built by Israel in the West Bank. How is it linked to other more figurative barriers in the lives of the characters of A Wall of Light?

4. When Sonya finally arrives at Khalid’s home, they have an intense discussion about whether what happens to us changes us irrevocably or whether we can choose to resist what has happened to us by how we react to it or by refusing to dwell on it. Khalid says: “Everything changes us, everything.… All that happens stays with us (200).” Sonya says of her assault: “People think I was affected by what happened but I wasn’t.… It’s like having a cold and then getting over it. Nothing’s changed. I’m exactly the same (200).”
Do you believe that one of these philosophies is true? Are these simply two different ways of coping with the life events that happen to us? Is one necessarily better than another?

5. Sonya’s math teacher, a Holocaust survivor, is the only one who understands Sonya’s attitude. What does this tell us about the relationship between the Holocaust and Israel’s history?

6. When Noah reflects on his experience in the army he comments: “A sort of emotional fatigue takes over, because a person gets tired of caring, just tired, that’s what it is. But now I wonder whether it stays with you forever, that tiredness–maybe you think it’s going to be temporary but then you realize it’s who you are now (204).”
Are there other places in the novel where resignation to the political turmoil and violence of Israel is evident? How does each of the characters cope with the political realities?

7. Sonya’s Beersheba teacher, reflecting on her wartime experience, tells her: “We passed the time by imagining and inventing our futures, the wonderful lives that awaited us. Imagination is the only thing that can save you in this life, Sonya. But to imagine alone is irresponsible, it hurts others. Imagination must be shared, it must be a collective enterprise (133).”
How does each of the characters in the novel use his or her imagination to respond to pain and suffering. Why is imagining alone irresponsible?

8. How do the various truths Sonya discovers throughout the novel set her free? Do you think that some of the secrets (who her father is, how Iris died) should have been kept from her?

9. What is the symbolic role of Sonya’s deafness?

10. Many of the characters in A Wall of Light are searching for something. What is it that Anna, Sonya, Noah and Kostya are searching for and are any of them successful in their search?

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