cover image The Blue Mountain

The Blue Mountain

Meir Shalev. Aaron Asher Books, $22.95 (375pp) ISBN 978-0-06-016691-5

Passionate, ribald and tender, bursting with dozens of interwoven tales, this lushly nostalgic novel (a bestseller in Israel) records the loves, hates, infidelities, feuds and enterprises that fuel one community over three decades. It also gently laments the eclipse of the pioneer spirit in modern Israel. Orphaned at age two when a bomb thrown by Arab terrorists kills his sleeping parents, Baruch Shenkar is raised by his grandfather, a Russian Jewish immigrant and founding father of a cooperative village in Palestine. Now a mortician reflecting on the many people he has buried, narrator Baruch mulls over questions that still haunt him: Why did rumors circulate that Grandfather Ya'akov Mirkin killed Grandmother Feyge? Whatever became of Uncle Efrayim, who, before he mysteriously vanished, was renowned for carrying an enormous bull named Jean Valjean on his back? Shalev's colorful, feisty characters and vibrant prose animate this indelible depiction of the birth of a nation. (July)