cover image Five Selves

Five Selves

Emanuela Barasch-Rubinstein. Holland House (, $15.99 trade paper (206p) ISBN 978-1-909374-79-9

Barasch-Rubinstein's collection of five splendid novellas explores Israeli identity and self-awareness. While preoccupied with different issues%E2%80%94grief and privacy, inflexibility and a changing work culture, generational rift, and a phobia%E2%80%94characters are interconnected in the literature through their common search for personal insight. The strongest entry, %E2%80%9CAura," is the surrealistic narrative of a hospitalized man who drifts in and out of consciousness and recognition, providing moments of enlightenment and horror. Barasch-Rubinstein's lean, beautiful writing prevents the characters from overstating emotion, and avoids any melodrama. In %E2%80%9CA Bird Flight," a woman fends off unwelcome and intrusive attention from a man who's trying to deal with his mother's demise and tactlessly probes for minutiae about the woman's father's recent death. A young Israeli woman contemplates her Israeli-born mother and European grandmother in %E2%80%9CEarrings," a meditation on generational and cultural differences. A teacher with an outdated, rigid teaching style spirals out of control when a more charismatic instructor takes her place in %E2%80%9CThe Grammar Teacher." And a young man's debilitating fear of dogs, combined with his shame and fear of discovery, consume his daily life in %E2%80%9CWatch Dog," which brings a fresh understanding to phobias. This anthology is a highly visual, spiritual gem. (Feb.)