What do you do when you are released from a world in which your job is to obey orders, and now you get to decide for yourself? Who will you be when everyone you meet projects on you, and you don’t like any of their choices? How will you go forward with your life when the world has mis-used you at every turn, putting you in danger and cutting you no slack?
Uri and Yoav were Israeli soldiers in the West Bank who have no idea how to be peaceful working adults. David is a non-religious Jew in an ugly business. Avery/Imamu was an American soldier in Vietnam, returned home with hopes of making an honest life, but cannot escape certain aspects of American culture and ends up drug addicted and foreclosed upon (where all their stories interconnect). (Ruth and Tammy and all the other women are underdeveloped stand-ins for female “types.” But that is in keeping with the way the males in this book thought of them.)
I don’t know how many stars to give this disturbing, enlightening, confusing, and well-crafted book. Cohen did what I often say I want from a writer: characters and situations I wouldn’t likely imagine myself; an ending I wouldn’t say I didn’t see coming, but that did surprise me; a glimpse into parts of the world I have never, in real life, seen up close. But boy was it uncomfortable. And sad. And also disgusting.
I’ll admit that I was confused at times and suspect I lack the contextual knowledge to understand everything Cohen was conveying. I hope someone else I know will read this so we can talk about it. This would be a great choice for a book group that is willing to do background reading and have uncomfortable conversations.