cover image The Woman Beyond the Sea

The Woman Beyond the Sea

Sarit Yishai-Levi, trans. from the Hebrew by Gilah Kahn-Hoffman. Amazon Crossing, $16.99 trade paper (418p) ISBN 978-1-54203-755-6

Yishai-Levi (The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem) connects the troubled lives of a mother and daughter in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War in this emotionally fraught if occasionally sentimental outing, smoothly translated by Kahn-Hoffman. After Eliya Zoref’s estranged and narcissistic husband, Ari, rejects her yet again during a meeting in a Paris café, Eliya, 25, returns to Tel Aviv and attempts suicide. She survives, and as part of her healing regimen, her psychiatrist recommends she make an effort to repair her relationship with her mother, Lily. She has never had a good relationship with her mother, whom she calls “the evil beast,” but Eliya nevertheless begins to help Lily in her search for the identity of her mother, who left Lily as a newborn at the door of a Jerusalem convent in 1927. Though the ending is a bit saccharine, the measured pacing allows readers to take in the rich historic detail—Paris’s Latin Quarter, Tel Aviv after the Yom Kippur War, pre-WWII Yugoslavia, and Jerusalem under the British Mandate—as the family members struggle with loss and abandonment. Thanks to the memorable characters and solid plot, this has much to offer. Agent: Margaret Sutherland Brown, Folio Literary. (Mar.)