Jerusalem Beach: Stories

Iddo Gefen. Astra House, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-66260-043-2
In this stimulating debut, Gefen explores the mysteries of the human mind through realist and fantastical lenses. In “The Geriatric Platoon,” an Israeli grandfather is deployed to guard a remote settlement near the Jordanian border, much to the puzzlement of his practical son and rudderless, war-scarred grandson. The setup lends itself to some Catch 22-style absurdist humor—one soldier receives special nap dispensations—but the family relationships resonate emotionally as well. Another military-themed story, “Neptune,” offers a darker vision. Set at a remote outpost, it describes a mock trial over a stolen grilled cheese sandwich that devolves into a brutal display of violence and power. Gefen is also a neurocognitive researcher, and several chilling tales venture into the mysteries of cognition, dream worlds, and mental illness. In the dreamlike title story, a husband tries to help his Alzheimer’s-suffering wife relive a special memory. And in the powerful “Exit,” two parents helplessly watch as their young daughter, who suffers from a mysterious condition in which she believes her dreams last for years, becomes lost in the “infinity of her private future” and withdraws from the waking world. Other stories, like “101.3 FM,” about a radio that can tune into people’s inner thoughts, and “Girl Who Lived Near the Sun,” an interplanetary coming-of-age tale, transcend their conceits thanks to a sharp voice. This vigorous, inventive work will surely fire up readers’ neurons. Agent: Deborah Harris, Deborah Harris Agency. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 05/28/2021
Release date: 08/17/2021
Genre: Fiction
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