26 January, 2014

Second Person Singular (Weekend Reads)

There comes that moment in a book store when you hold a few books in your hand and all look good, but you need to pick something for the mood or moment you'll have. It feels like so much opportunity, so much pressure. Pick the wrong book and your bedtime reading is too intense or so boring you have no choice but to sleep. Pick the right one and you are entertained and engaged but not dumbed down. Pick the wrong vacation book and you've got serious problems.

Confession: I grabbed this book entirely because of the cover. But we all know you can't judge a book that way so I took the time to read the first few pages before buying. In those first few pages I was drawn into the character and the writing. I thought I was drawn into the story then, but oh how things changed. After a long build up of character the story really begins. And it was worth reading to get there.

Second Person Singular by Sayud Kashua is an incredible compelling story of two men. They are both Arabs living in Israel and their lives intersect in a completely unexpected way. That being said, they both have insecurities and identity conflicts that should drive the reader to annoyance. But the writing is so eloquent, funny, and captivating that you can't help but root for these men. At least for them to find the peace they seek. It isn't a political novel full of statements about settlements and Palestine, but it would not be the story it is without the men being Arab in Israel. The commentary provided but this fact is integral to the characters. And for the reader whose never been to this part of the world and knows most of what she knows from the news it was fascinating.

I had the fortune to read most of this book on a recent vacation. There I am on a beach in Mexico completely engrossed in a story about men in Jerusalem. With a mystery to the story and such characters it was the perfect book. My bookstore moment, unlike the one that kicks the mystery into gear in the story, was fortuitous.


rappy said...

Sayed Kashua writes an absolutely brilliant column for Haaretz newspaper in Israel about life as an Israeli Arab. Well worth a read. You can register to Haaretz to read up to ten stories a month for free, and if I'm not mistaken his column appears on Friday.


I should mention that I don't know how good the translation of his column is; I've only ever read him in Hebrew.

Samantha said...

Thank you for sharing your read. There's nothing worse than picking the wrong book for the moment...