Orly Castel-Bloom, Author , trans. from the Hebrew by Dalya Bilu. David R. Godine $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-56792-256-1

Israeli writer Castel-Bloom invents a bitterly cold winter and an outbreak of the Saudian flu in this richly satiric if occasionally heavy-handed novel. Kati Beit-Halahmi, a desperately poor cleaning woman, gets a peek inside the glamorous media world when a news organization runs a feature on the plight of her family. The excitement of the experience makes her realize she can never return to her former life. Graphic artist Iris Ventura is a twice-spurned mother of three, also struggling financially. Determination is the common thread that links Kati and Iris as they fight to survive the unusually cold winter and keep food in their children's mouths. Denied adequate child support, Iris is kept financially afloat with occasional odd jobs from her unlikable asthmatic ex-boyfriend, Adir, who is himself distraught by his sister's death from the Saudian flu. Castel-Bloom's talent for creating complex female characters the reader instantly connects with is somewhat undermined by her tendency to draw all the male characters as flat and unsympathetic. Adir's new Ethiopian girlfriend, Tasaro, suffered much hardship to emigrate to Israel and wants nothing more than to marry her lover, but he continually rebuffs her proposals. "They'll tear us to pieces. They'll turn us into a 'mixed couple'... the black woman and the white man. When we walk down the street they'll say: Here come the dominoes.... You don't realize where you are.... Israeli society will snicker at our expense." Though predictable general pronouncements blunt the novel's effect, Castel-Bloom's insights into human weaknesses and self-interest are wickedly precise. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 12/22/2003
Release date: 10/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
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