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Real Time Paperback – July 24, 2006
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"exhausting but illuminating...characters are deeply developed and painfully sympathetic as they find that they are inextricably and unexpectedly connected." SLJ
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These characters include Thomas, a German boy who has come to Israel looking for answers about his family. Baruch, a Holocaust survivor who now works on a kibbutz. Vera, another kibbutz worker who is finding her Jewish roots and escaping her tragic past in Odessa. Sameh, a Palestinian working illegally at a diner. Saheh's friend Omar, a reporter, and many, many others. All of these people are different, looking for different things, but there is a moment when all of their lives come together, and it is a tragedy.
So much sadness, so much despair, is evident. Can there be healing and hope for those who survive this tragedy? Only time will tell.
This novel is a breathtaking story, but it's more than that. For one thing, it's a behind-the-scenes look at what is usually seen only on television. And yet it's more than behind-the-scenes; it's the secrets, thoughts, hopes, and dreams of every person involved. The way this story is told, in (as the title suggests) real time, switching back and forth between several narrators, is a part of what makes it amazing. If just one character told the story, so many aspects of it would not be seen. Pnina Kass Moed is a brilliant writer, and the story she tells in REAL TIME is equally brilliant.
Reviewed by: Jocelyn Pearce
The author presents a startlingly realistic portrait of what living and being in Israel is like for all of these people. She communicates the emotions and tensions that come with living under such tense circumstances and brings readers into this challenging world, allowing them to see what it's like for themselves.
I highly recommend this book and challenge audiences to try to step out of their secure worlds for a few hours and into the lives of the people in this book. I think it will be an enlightening experience.
Kass narrates through the perspective of many characters, including a teenage German trying to find information on his Nazi grandfather, a Holocaust survivor trying to keep his life from being disrupted again, and a young Palestinian trying to support his family by agreeing to become a shaheed. Kass's characterization is excellent. Each character has a voice that is not only distinct from all the others, but is also extremely believable. The reader may appreciate and even personally feel the dreams, hopes, and fears of each character.
Kass complicates the "good guy-bad guy" dichotomy in this novel. We are led to sympathize with one of the potential suicide bombers, seeing his family's oppression and hearing his story in his own words. He sees Israel as his people's oppressor, like Nazi Germany was the Jewish people's oppressor. We also, however, sympathize with the victims of the explosion on the bus. Kass depicts life as it is--complicated. For every action, there is a long back story for each person involved.
Through this fictional account, Kass allows us to see what the back story of a breaking news report might be. The number injured or killed is representative of individual people, each with his or her own story. Also, those charged with the crime have their own stories to tell. We cannot say that anyone is purely good or purely evil.
Kass also examines how different people deal with grief. Some must keep order in their lives, scheduling each moment in a predictable way so as to eliminate the possibility of remembering. Others must escape in a geographic sense, abandoning the stimuli that might conjure up a memory. Though Kass allows some of her characters a happy ending, they are still indelibly altered by the bombing and will need to learn how to cope with their grief. Also, some of the characters learn that not all of lives' questions can be answered.
I would suggest this book to young adults because it provides another perspective on events and themes that have shaken our world, from the Holocaust to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Also, it tackles difficult themes such as grief, hatred, and uncertainty. The book is also enjoyable to read. Kass's characterization and decision to depict the situation in "real time" through the voices of many different characters makes this novel engaging. This is not a novel, however, for someone that requires clear-cut answers or completely happy endings. Kass does not suggest that the suicide bombings will end. In fact, she suggests that they will continue. Also, the problems of the "innocent" characters are not completely solved. It is these details that make this novel realistic.