cover image The Extra

The Extra

A.B. Yehoshua. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24 (256p) ISBN 978-0-544-60970-9

In Yehoshua's (The Retrospective) latest novel, a woman leaves her comfort zone and returns to her childhood home, where she slowly begins peeling back the layers of experiences and relationships that have kept her from taking charge of her own story. Noga, a harpist in an orchestra, has lived in the Netherlands for years, but when her father's death leaves her mother alone in their Jerusalem apartment, her brother asks her to return to Israel to look after the rent-controlled unit while his mother tries out an assisted living facility in Tel Aviv. Noga agrees, temporarily leaving her adult life behind to work as an extra in Israeli movies, television, and operas and to wander the city, where she reconnects with her ex-husband and meets a varied cast of characters that makes up the backdrop of her story. The novel is beautifully written and Noga is a relatable heroine, but the slow pacing obscures the emotional stakes as Noga contemplates her future, her past, and her choices in life. Her interactions with others can feel wooden and falsely intimate, but the novel shines when Noga is given time and space alone with her thoughts and larger themes of family, love, music, and creativity, all depicted with Yehoshua's clarion style. (June)