cover image To Know a Woman

To Know a Woman

Amos Oz. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $19.95 (262pp) ISBN 978-0-15-190499-0

A provocative look into the mind of a 49-year-old former Israeli espionage agent who has retired following the accidental death of his wife, Oz's compelling psychological study raises but provides no easy answers to metaphysical questions. Respected in the secret service for his methodical working technique and self-control, Yoel Ravid is attempting to confront the unresolved issues of his marriage while remembering, almost despite himself, ``the rare, unexpected moments when the blackness of existence was momentarily illuminated.'' Fragments of memories and dreams--hallucinatory, mysterious--invade the ordered pattern of Yoel's daily routine. While Yoel beds his next-door neighbor (his uncharacteristic lack of circumspection is unconvincing), and tries to understand and protect his fragile teenage daughter, his inner life becomes more and more fevered until, turning down a summons from his former boss--which sends another agent to his death--he breaks through the shield separating him from real human contact. Recurrent references to incidents in Yoel's past that are never explained give this novel a lifelike credibility, but may disappoint readers who enjoy a story with revelations and closure. Yet Oz touches a universal chord in one man's anguished search for meaning in a country that is a microcosm of a chaotic, dangerous world. (Mar.)