cover image Apples from the Desert: Selected Stories

Apples from the Desert: Selected Stories

Savyon Liebrecht. Feminist Press, $19.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-1-55861-190-0

As Grace Paley notes in her foreword to the first English translation of popular Israeli writer Leibrecht's work, these dozen stories are ""personal--but they are also fierce pleas for understanding and justice."" Their themes are somber: the enmity between Jews and Arabs; the oppression of women in sometimes violently unhappy marriages; the lingering effects of the Holocaust. In ""A Room on the Roof,"" a young Jewish woman finds herself drawn to the educated and sensitive leader of a group of Arabs she has hired--against her husband's wishes--to build an addition to her house, but prejudice, misunderstanding and fear overcome her attempts to connect with them. In the title story, a woman who has gone to a kibbutz to retrieve her runaway daughter comes to admire the egalitarian affair between the girl and a fellow kibbutznik, but returns to her own loveless marriage at the end. And in ""Hayuta's Engagement,"" a woman tries unsuccessfully to mediate between her heartless daughter's desire for a smooth engagement party and her father's compulsive need to reveal the horrors of his long-ago concentration camp existence; though compassionate, she buckles under her daughter's insistence that the old man be silenced, with tragic results. Liebrecht's strong prose bears witness to conflict in powerful ways, and if her refusal to provide upbeat endings makes the tone of these tales unrelievedly dark, she is true to her subjects and their history. (Aug.)