cover image Isra-Isle


Nava Semel, trans. from Hebrew by Jessica Cohen. Mandel Vilar, $16.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-942134-19-0

Award-winning Israeli author Semel’s novel explores an intriguing what-if scenario based on historical fact. In 1825, Jewish-American Mordecai Manuel Noah purchased Grand Island, near Niagara Falls, from Native Americans, planning to create a place of refuge for Jews. Semel’s novel asks the question, What if this plan had worked? In Part 1, Native American NYPD detective Simon T. Lenox, in the present, is looking for a missing person, Liam Emanuel, an Israeli last seen on a flight to New York City. Lenox follows the trail of the missing man to Grand Island, N.Y. Part 2 flashes back to 1825, when Mordecai gets his first look at his newly purchased land with a Native American guide. Part 3 takes place in modern times but with an alternate history: Mordecai’s plans succeeded and Grand Island is now Isra Isle, a thriving city filled with Jewish people from all over the world. In this changed world, Israel never existed, Native American and Jewish customs have been merged, and the American Jewish state affects many issues in the world. Each of the main characters struggles with issues of religion, spirituality, and identity in streaming thoughts and discussions. Through those voices, Semel explores issues of global importance—such as terrorism, prejudice, and politics—in this singular, thought-provoking novel. (Oct.)