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Waking Lions


Waking Lions

What an amazing book this is, a story so wonderfully written and told. One might consider WAKING LIONS a crime novel, and while a crime is involved here --- a few of them, in fact --- the tale is so much broader that it cannot be jammed comfortably into any particular genre. Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, the author of this stunning piece, is a psychologist, short film screenwriter and award-winning author in her native Israel. WAKING LIONS, her first work to be published in the United States, is a stunning introduction, with the translation by Sondra Silverstein from the Hebrew illuminating her wonderful prose.

"Anyone who loves the magic of the printed word should read WAKING LIONS. It is a dark story, full of cruelty, greed and betrayal, but also is shot through with redemption and perseverance."

Gundar-Goshen’s literary skill set would be enough by itself to make reading this book worthwhile, but the plotting and characterization are unforgettable as well. Eitan Green is the tip of the spear in WAKING LIONS. He has a wonderful life on the surface, working as a neurosurgeon at a small Israeli hospital while living with his wife, Liat --- a Police Inspector --- and children in a comfortable home. Eitan chafes inwardly, however. His transfer to the hospital was not voluntary, and while life in a small town has its benefits (lack of traffic being one), he misses the big city. While driving home late one night after an extended hospital shift, his car hits and kills an African migrant. Eitan stops immediately, but after ascertaining that the victim’s injuries are mortal, he continues driving home. His reasoning is that his family’s lives (and, of course, his own) shouldn’t be changed by his momentary and careless blunder.

Eitan has no idea what the world has in store for him. Sirkit, the victim’s widow, appears at his house the next day, with the wallet he left behind at the accident scene. In exchange for her silence, Sirkit forces Eitan to run what becomes a clandestine medical clinic for refugees, which he stocks by misappropriating supplies from his own hospital. Eitan is soon lying to everyone --- his wife, his children, his colleagues --- as he works two shifts (or more) several days a week to fulfill his official and unofficial obligations. Something has to give, and something eventually does, when Liat, who is assigned to investigate the hit-and-run death of the refugee, suddenly obtains a confession from someone who, as Eitan knows, could not have committed the crime. Liat, meanwhile, detects a change in her husband and believes that he is being unfaithful, even as he slowly finds himself, against all odds, being attracted to Sirkit.

A major shift then takes place about halfway through the book that puts everyone’s actions, including Eitan’s, in a new light. The change has a ripple effect that continues outward through the story’s conclusion. Anything but a tragic ending seems all but inevitable, and tragic it might be. For some, anyway. But not for everyone.

Anyone who loves the magic of the printed word should read WAKING LIONS. It is a dark story, full of cruelty, greed and betrayal, but also is shot through with redemption and perseverance. Gundar-Goshen has earned, and deserves, a worldwide audience, and this magnificent novel may well be the vehicle for that.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 3, 2017

Waking Lions
by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen

  • Publication Date: February 27, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books
  • ISBN-10: 0316395412
  • ISBN-13: 9780316395410