EDEN by Yael Hedaya

Book Quote:

“No, the thing was that sex – and this is what they were trying to show in Last Tango in Paris, which no one understood – was redemption, and Roni had an urgent need for redemption. Redemption with boys her own age was impossible, because they just hadn’t suffered enough to know anything about it yet, and so since the age of fourteen or so she’d been looking for someone to fuck her like Marlon Brando did Maria Schneider: angrily, passionately, pouring all his loneliness into her, because she could contain it, she could; it would be her real matriculation. And it would be someone she could return the favor to by also saving him from something, it didn’t matter what, maybe from himself.”

Book Review:

Review by Bonnie Brody  (NOV 29, 2010)

Yael Hedaya was a screenwriter for the acclaimed Israeli TV drama series Betipul (In Treatment), which was adapted for the United States and currently airs on HBO. This background shows in her novel, Eden,  with her attention to the emotions, human interactions and the inner workings of the characters’ minds. Eden’s translator, Jessica Cohen, does a stunning job. The book flows without awkwardness or hesitation.

This is a book about the intertwined lives of the people of Eden – the good, the bad, the indifferent and the morally ambiguous. Until tragedies hit, they go about their lives in a very insular way. Even with tragedy, they are more apt to talk about it than to take action.

Eden is a community in Israel’s Moshav. Part rural and part suburban, the people who live here are yuppies. Most are well-heeled financially and concerned with their own lives and interests. It is the rare Edenite who reaches out to larger causes or concerns. The book delves into the lives of the main characters and the novel flows from there, exploring the inner lives and actions of Eden’s populous. What is specific to this sense of place is the constant fear that the Israelis have of terrorism and intifada.

Dafna and Eli have desperately been trying to get pregnant for the past seven years without success. Despite fertility treatments, each month Dafna hears the nurse tell her “I’m sorry.”  Eli is a corporate attorney who commutes to Jerusalem every day for work. He would like to halt the fertility treatments and get on with their lives, perhaps adopt a child but Dafna won’t hear of this. Dafna works for a mostly ineffective non-profit agency intent on making peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Dafna is depressed most of the time, disheartened about her infertility and unfulfilled at her work. She feels like she and Eli are drifting apart.

Alona and Mark have been separated for two years but their lives are still very intertwined with their children. Mark runs an Italian restaurant in Eden and Alona is an editor for a high end literary publisher. Currently, she is editing a book by an author named Uri who is driving her crazy with his insecurity and dependence. She and Mark have two children, Maya and Ido. Alona worries that Ido is suffering from depression but Mark thinks Ido, a bright and inquisitive little boy, is just fine. Mark has a daughter, Roni, from a previous marriage. When the book opens Roni is almost 16.

Reuven is a bureaucrat who takes delight in turning down customers’ requests. He is also a lech, given to staring at women’s breasts and and butts. He has a son Dudi who is in the Israeli army and lives with Reven and his wife when he is at home. Reuven would like nothing better than to hook up with Alona. When Reuven discovers a very disturbing secret about Dudi, it appalls him but he takes no action.

A great deal of the book focuses on Roni who is sexually involved with several men many years her senior. As the book commences, she is having affairs with Eli, Uri, and her driving instructor , all of whom are 12 to 25 years her senior. The driving instructor disgusts her but that doesn’t stop her from having sex with him. She thinks she is in love with Uri but Roni is emotionally stalled, searching for a life that mirrors the sex scenes in Last Tango in Paris. For Roni, “pain was redemption.” Her emotional life thrives on pain and she is not able to access pleasure. Her emotions are black and white and she does not see any grey in what she does. Her father and Alona are unable to set boundaries and this leads Roni even further astray.

When Roni suffers a tragedy, her family is brought together and it appears, for the first time, that Roni may be starting to mature. This is a book about people and their day to day lives. In Treatment is about individual psychotherapy and this book reads like it could be the basis for a group therapy show. All the people have their issues, they repeat their mistakes without insight about change and the lives of Eden are opened up to the readers eyes, not unlike a soap opera.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 2 readers
PUBLISHER: Metropolitan Books (October 26, 2010)
REVIEWER: Bonnie Brody
EXTRAS: Excerpt

NY Mag interview with Yael Hedaya

MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Another you might like:

Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjilian

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper


November 29, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Israel, World Lit

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