Gundar-Goshen, Ayelet. “Waking Lions”, Little Brown and Company, 2017.
Saving His Family and His Name
Eitan Green is a neurosurgeon who seems to have a perfect life. He is married to a beautiful police officer and the father of two young boys. While speeding along a deserted moonlit road after an exhausting hospital shift, he accidentally hit an Eritrean migrant and when he realized that the man was beyond help, he fled the scene. When the victim’s widow, Sirkit knocked at Eitan’s door the next day his wallet and claiming that she knew what happened. Eitan learned that her price for silence was not money but something that would shatter his safe existence and plunge him into a world of secrets and lies that he could never have anticipated. When he hit the man, he felt sorry and this was just the beginning of his sense of guilt that causes his almost personal life to come apart.
“Waking Lions” looks at the moral ambiguities of Eitan’s situation with equal attention paid to the impact of its repercussions on his wife, Liat. Because he felt pressure from his work, decided to clear his head and put puts his new SUV through its paces in the middle of the night as he drove home from a very taxing day working at the hospital. It is that he hit the man and when Eitan got out of the car to see to the man (who he learn later is called Asum), he noticed that his car suffered no damage He determined that Asum was dying and quickly Eitan jumped back into the car and drove off leaving behind no trace that could identify him as the person who accidentally killed his victim. What he did not know was that he had left his wallet at the scene and this caused consequences to ensue.
Those consequences include blackmail. Eitan was forced to act or the accident would become public. He was trapped in a complex and illegal situation and very afraid. He was a man could have made life better for so many yet who found himself unable to think. Writer Ayelet Gundar-Goshen provides a lot to think about here. Would someone with a stronger conscience have confessed to this unintentional killing? The morality of his actions are at the focus of this novel as we see the results of an instantaneous , decision haunt him and his family.
This is a thriller and a social comment on the little publicized issue of marginalized illegal immigrants in Israeli society and we only realize this when we learn that Asum was illegally in Israel and was one of many others who came to Israel from Eritrea. As we think about how Eitan reacted to the accident, we understand the meaning of his dilemma. We pay careful attention to how we arrive at our sense of morality. We see that Eitan is pliable and that his wife is unaware of what he is dealing with. Sirkit is cunning, a woman who does not agree with the ethic of how all live. She is a pragmatic woman who is determined to survive at all costs. What I found to be the most interesting aspect of the book is that
The plot is almost secondary to the political implications of the story that makes us think about integrity and the nature of guilt. Because this is a translation, there will be readers that can have a hard time with the style. As I read, I had the Hebrew edition beside the English translation and could easily see where the difficulties came about. There is a great deal of detail that might cause some to feel that they detract from the overall story. For me, I welcomed them because they reminded me so much of places I visited when I lived in Israel. Beersheba comes more to life on the pages of the book than it does in reality and the fact that it exists as the gateway to the Negev, the desert of Israel with its sweltering heat adds to the pressure that the entire novel holds. I was aware of the situation of migrant Africans who come to Israel as a place of refuge.
Be ready for a story with twists (and those twists have twists) that have the reader turning pages as quickly as possible. We see the huge differences between insider and outsider and while the very complex relationships that exist in Israel are unique to the country, we see a social dynamic that is very similar to what we have here.