The Wanting

Michael Lavigne, Author
Michael Lavigne. Schocken, $25.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-8052-1255-6
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Lavigne’s second novel (after Not Me) confronts the moral questions surrounding religious extremism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The novel’s literally explosive opening takes place in Jerusalem in 1996, as a bomb goes off outside renowned architect Roman Guttman’s office, triggering a sort of fever dream that sends him into Palestinian territory and deep into memories of his communist youth in the U.S.S.R. Guttman narrates sections of the novel in language both vivid and disturbing. Also narrating is the suicide bomber, Amir Hamid, now dead, who has found in the afterlife not a martyr’s reward but rather the curse of following Guttman through the desert and retracing his own youthful journey toward violent extremism. Finally, Guttman’s 13-year-old daughter Anyusha, whose Zionist radical mother, Collette, died in a Soviet prison soon after giving birth, seeks answers of her own, revealing in diary form her attraction toward a messianic Jewish extremist group. Though some narrative digressions keep the novel from being truly elegant, Lavigne’s heartfelt examination offers what reportage never could: an intensely intimate and humane depiction of the forces that unite and powerfully divide this region and its people. Agent: Michael V. Carlisle, Inkwell Management. (Feb.)
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