Yael Hedaya; Jes­si­ca Cohen, trans.

  • Review
By – September 19, 2011

Accom­plished Israeli writer Yael Hedaya’s Eden is no tale of bliss­ful inno­cence, but rather one weight­ed with the heavy knowl­edge of mat­u­ra­tion, loss, and long­ing. Eden, a moshav in the Israeli coun­try­side, is peo­pled by a cast of char­ac­ters whose lives inter­sect in com­pli­cat­ed and some­times sur­pris­ing ways. Through the narrative’s shift­ing per­spec­tive, Hedaya ren­ders each of these char­ac­ters pitch-per­fect­ly and with stun­ning depth, reveal­ing a mas­ter­ful under­stand­ing of emo­tion and psy­cho­log­i­cal process at all dif­fer­ent stages of life. Daf­na, a cyn­i­cal social jus­tice activist, endures one futile doctor’s vis­it after anoth­er as she strug­gles to become preg­nant. Alona, an uptight edi­tor, wants to express her love for her young chil­dren but finds her­self ham­pered by her own neu­roses. Mark, Alona’s estranged hus­band, tries to find mean­ing after their sep­a­ra­tion. Roni, Mark’s rebel­lious and sex­u­al­ly pre­co­cious 16-year-old daugh­ter from an ear­li­er mar­riage, seeks inti­ma­cy with old­er men. The every­day, per­son­al dra­mas of the moshav are neat­ly jux­ta­posed against con­sid­er­a­tions of Israel’s larg­er polit­i­cal con­flicts, until an unex­pect­ed tragedy super­sedes all oth­er con­cerns — per­haps to the detri­ment of an oth­er­wise cap­ti­vat­ing sto­ry, which abrupt­ly los­es the com­mu­nal con­nec­tions and inter­weav­ing sub­plots that had made it so rich. Hedaya writes with bru­tal hon­esty about despair but nev­er­the­less shows that when life is at its most bleak, glim­mers of the extra­or­di­nary can shine through. Eden is an engag­ing study of the way peo­ple make sense of them­selves and relate to oth­ers, deliv­ered with razor­sharp insight. Trans­lat­ed from Hebrew.

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