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by Michael Lavigne
In the galvanizing opening of
, the celebrated Russian-born postmodern architect Roman Guttman is injured in a bus bombing, causing his life to swerve into instability and his perceptions to become heightened and disturbed as he embarks on an ill-advised journey into Palestinian territory. The account of Roman’s desert odyssey alternates with the vivacious, bittersweet diary of his thirteen-year-old daughter, Anyusha (who is on her own perilous path, of which Roman is ignorant), and the startlingly alive witnessings of Amir, the young Palestinian who pushed the button and is now damned to observe the havoc he has wrought from a shaky beyond.
Enriched by flashbacks to the alluringly sad tale of Anyusha’s mother, a famous Russian refusenik who died for her beliefs,
is a poignant study of the costs of extremism, but it is most satisfying as a story of characters enmeshed in their imperfect love for one another and for the heartbreakingly complex world in which that love is wrought.
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