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Friendly Fire Hardcover – November 10, 2008
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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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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
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
"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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
“Friendly Fire” is the eighth A. B. Yehoshua novel. It was published in Hebrew in 2007, and the English translation in 2008. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Israel Drazin
Challenging! I am recommending it for a book group selection!!Published 12 months ago by Just a Cook
The storyline is nicely constructed, alternating between the husband staying at home in Israel and the wife traveling to Africa to grieve her deceased sister. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Meghan
Well written characterization a reflecting valuation positive relationships maintained against a backdrop of loss, enmity and war.Published 19 months ago by Helene Ellis
Great book , interesting story especially when familiar with Israeli society and literaturePublished on September 23, 2014 by runnerjulio
i THOUTGH THE BOOK VERY INTRESTING ,BUT FOUND IT A LITTLE DISTRACTING JUMPING FROM ONE PLACE TO THE R....SOME OF THE CHARCTERS ARE VERY INTPublished on October 11, 2013 by Naomi Weissenberg
This is a book that proceeds at the steady pace of life itself. Over the eight-day span of Hanukkah, we follow in intimate detail the daily doings of a husband and wife,... Read morePublished on March 1, 2013 by Roger Brunyate
An ok novel that attempts to deal with too many issues in a pot of soup that just doesn't mix too well.Published on December 18, 2012 by Hamarca
A wife who has seldom traveled alone goes to Africa to visit her brother-in-law and to mourn her sister's death. Read morePublished on December 14, 2012 by Sally W. Morgan