cover image Thirst: The Desert Trilogy

Thirst: The Desert Trilogy

Shulamith Hareven. Mercury House, $16.95 (186pp) ISBN 978-1-56279-088-2

Hareven, one of few women widely accepted in Israel as a member of that country's intellectual elite, is better known for her eloquent essays than for her fiction. Here, however, three novellas bring to life many of the same issues--justice, Jewish identity, application of religious tenets in real life--explored in her nonfiction (Vocabulary of Peace). Common to all three novellas are Old Testament-era desert settings, as well as Hareven's highly distilled, poetic evocation of place. Set against the Hebrews' 40 years in the wilderness, ""The Miracle Hater,"" involves Eshkar, a young man who is kept from his beloved Baita by strict Jewish elders. When Baita falls ill and dies, Eshkar decides ""he wanted nothing more to do with God"" until his faith is restored in a story that shows Hareven's subtlety and compassion. ""The Prophet,"" about a Gibeonite who loses his powers of prophecy when his people need them the most, is hindered by the lack of convincing character development. ""After Childhood,"" published here in English for the first-time, offers a female perspective on life in a Jewish desert village. Moran, a shy young woman from the mountains, agrees to marry a longtime bachelor, Salu, so she can move to the desert she's always dreamed of. When Salu is unfaithful, Moran finds solace in her family and land. Throughout, Hareven pinpoints the human perspective in the midst of biblical settings and themes. These are apocryphal tales that, at their best, possess a shimmering, timeless quality. (Apr.)