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Friendly Fire Hardcover – November 10, 2008

21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Celebrated Israeli novelist Yehoshua (A Woman in Jerusalem) explores the power of grief and bitterness in a blunt drama studded with political, historical and religious significance. In Tel Aviv, 60-year-old Amotz Ya'ari is separated for a week from his wife Daniela when she flies to Tanzania to mourn her dead sister, Shuli, and visit with brother-in-law Yirmi. Soon after Daniela arrives in Tanzania, where Yirmi works for a team of archeologists at an excavation, it becomes apparent that another death—that of Yirmi and Shuli's son, an Israeli soldier who was killed by friendly fire seven years before the novel begins—preoccupies the family. Back in Tel Aviv, Amotz, both professionally and personally, shows himself to be a compassionate and deeply moral man—a striking counterpoint to his self-centered wife. The scenes at Yirmi's dig are lit with hope for Africa's future, though the narration can be naïve about the continent's present and tends to caricaturize Daniela. In contrast, Yehoshua's descriptions of life in Israel are full and revelatory, and his despairing view of entrenched resentments becomes a stirring plea for empathy and rationality. (Nov.)
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From Booklist

The wryly funny and morally inquisitive Israeli writer Yehoshua considers the implications of “friendly fire,” a fraught expression if ever there was one, in this many-tiered novel of a long-married couple separated during Hanukkah. The holiday candle flames are friendly, bringing loved ones together. But Israelis often celebrate Hanukkah in the midst of violence, and war has shadowed the otherwise colorful family of Daniela and Ya’ari. Daniela, a pixieish high-school English teacher, has gone to Tanzania to stay with her brother-in-law after the sudden death of her sister. Her husband is soon overwhelmed by the demands of his children, grandchildren, Parkinson’s-afflicted father, the family elevator-design business, and two baffling cases of wailing elevators. Deeply moved by Africa, Daniela is dismayed to discover that her brother-in-law is grieving not for her sister but for his son, killed years ago by so-called friendly fire. As in each of his wisely tragicomic novels, Yehoshua orchestrates nearly absurd predicaments that serve as conduits to Israel’s confounding conflicts, which so intensely and sorrowfully encapsulate our endless struggle for peace and belonging. --Donna Seaman
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (November 10, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151014191
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151014194
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,111,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
(4.5 stars) With Friendly Fire, A. B. Yehoshua, one of Israel's most honored contemporary novelists, creates a magnificent novel filled with real, flawed characters who come alive from the first page. The alternating narratives of Daniela Ya'ari, who is visiting her brother-in-law in Tanzania, and her husand Amotz Ya'ari, who remains behind in Tel Aviv, reveal their relationships to each other, their family, their culture, and ultimately their country. Daniela has been protected by Ya'ari (as he is usually identified) for her entire marriage, but she has traveled to Tanzania alone this time. Her older sister Shuli died two years before, while Shuli and her husband Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) were living in Tanzania, and Daniela, who has never really grieved, wants to come to terms with her death.

Yirmi has suffered a double loss. He has lost not only Shuli but also their son Eyal, a soldier who was killed in the West Bank by "friendly fire." Yirmiyahu refuses to return to Israel, wanting a rest from "the whole messy stew, Jewish and Israeli...a time out from my people, Jews in general and Israelis in particular." Working on a remote anthropological dig, he feels most at home with the African researchers.

Daniela's husband Ya'ari, who runs a Tel Aviv engineering company, needs to be in control, and his inability to control the vagaries of nature (and other people) frustrates him. In an unforgettably described passage at the outset of the novel, Ya'ari has been summoned to correct the unbearable moaning noises which emanate from an elevator whenever the wind blows, an engineering problem that Yehoshua actually manages to make exciting.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Biblibio VINE VOICE on April 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Here is the case of a dual-sided, character-driven novel. There are many character-driven books that fail because they aren't done properly and equally as many duets that fall because there's no harmony between the two. Still, somehow A.B. Yehoshua manages to find a perfect balance, creating two brilliant stories that exist side-by-side.

"Friendly Fire" follows long married husband-and-wife Ya'ari and Daniela during their week apart throughout Hanukkah, such that each day is marked by Ya'ari lighting the daily candles, each time with different friends and family. Daniela, in Africa, comes to soul-search about the death of her sister and hears instead stories of another death. Ya'ari juggles work, his grandchildren, his children, and his ailing father as he awaits his wife's return. The two stories start together and end together, touching only a few times where one thinks of the other, one mentions the other, and when Ya'ari and Daniela talk on the phone, briefly.

The dual qualities offer a lot. The chapters switch off, so the reader is constantly immersed in the story, even if there's not much in the way of plot. It's not a plot driven book, but rather a day-by-day account of two very real lives. It's a book to be read slowly, to savor the special style of Yehoshua's writing and to appreciate the depth of his characters. By the end of the book, the reader feels so connected to these men and women that it is a bit difficult to let go.

In the end, "Friendly Fire" tells two strikingly real and important stories. Ya'ari's half describes the many facets of ordinary Israeli life, from obstinate business suppliers for so long "he's family" to bratty but lovable grandchildren.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By E. Tabor on July 12, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the two stories, of Amotz and his trials in Israel and of Daniela and her trip to Tanzania and her struggles there with her brother-in-law. The combined symbolism of the fire (Chanukah lights, death of Eyal by friendly fire) gave a useful structure to the book.

My only complaint is the translation. Hebrew and English are very different languages, not united by any common linguistic history (pace, those who say that modern Hebrew is just German in Semitic), but there are magnificent translations from Hebrew (like the Bible) and this is just not one of them. the language is stilted, with a Hebrew accent that reads as quaint and silly to me. The translation really detracted from the story. Some of the imagery read like an assignment in a creative writing class and was not at the level of literature, which is what Mr. Yehoshua writes. It was florid and distracting. My Hebrew is not good enough to know how faithful the translation is to the original, and I kept trying to translate it back to see if was more graceful, but in the end, I found it distracting, which is why I only gave the book 3 stars.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Cary B. Barad on February 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Intelligently written novel with many well drawn introspective characters and a subtle philosophical plotline that will appeal mainly to those interested in Israeli life and/or foreign literature of quality. The translation reads exceptionally well. Mainstream readers will probably not go out of their way to find and read this one. But if they do, a lush, satisfying experience awaits them.
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