22 Apr / City of a Thousand Gates by Rebecca Sacks [in Booklist]
Lameece Issaq reads languidly, her voice an ongoing invitation to Rebecca Sacks’ debut in which so much happens, but by book’s end might feel narratively stagnant – not because of Sacks’ writing, but because Israel and Palestine remain relentlessly enshrouded in conflict.
The opening credits wisely advise downloading a list of the cast of characters, which is available online. Issaq has a behemoth task: the list annotates 32 names (further multitudes speak), although the dead are silent, including two 14-year-old victims of hatred-fueling, symbolic “tit-for-tat violence” – a Jewish settler girl stabbed in her bed, a Palestinian boy mob-attacked in revenge whose coma ends in death.
The many characters affected by the sensationalized murders are spread through Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Bethlehem, Ramallah, West Bank, and a brief Chicago stopover. Memorable residents include cartoonist Ido and his social-media-maven wife, Emily; German reporter Vera, who is desperate for more substantial assignments; soldier Ori and his overprotective mother, Miriam, who teaches submission to young wives-to-be; university professor Samar; and student Mai, whose lifesaving act might cause her own demise.
With such breadth and length, consistent individualization proves impossibly challenging; Issaq rallies admirably.