This is Israeli author Gundar-Goshen’s second novel translated from its original Hebrew by Sondra Silverston. Her first “One Night, Markovitch” (2012) was also published by Pushkin Press and won awards in her homeland. “The Waking Lions” is a philosophical work which deals with deep moral issues yet also works well as a thriller.
Main character Eitan Green is a neurosurgeon whose life transforms one night when he hits an Eritrean immigrant with his SUV and decides to leave him for dead. His wallet is discovered at the scene by the dead man’s wife and in order to make amends and save himself from professional ruin and prison Eitan is coerced into treating illegal immigrants at night in a disused garage. The potential plot-worthiness of this is cranked up a notch as Eitan’s wife, Liat, is a policewoman involved in investigating the hit and run case.
Eitan is dragged into a situation he cannot get out of and becomes obsessed with the dead man’s wife, Sirkit, who is very much in control of his fate. Much is made of how one moment can change lives and how changes of behaviour stem from one decision. Liat knows her marriage is falling apart but cannot link it to a dead road accident victim. There’s guilt, atonement and much analysis yet the predicament Eitan finds himself in also lends itself to some gripping writing. The moral significance of the story transcends its Israeli setting and really could work located anywhere. Admittedly, there were times when the philosophising and navel-gazing of the main characters (the author has a Masters degree in psychology) slowed things down unduly but then a twist of the knife was never that far away to make Eitan’s problems even more complex.
I found it enjoyable and thought-provoking. It would seem to be a good choice for reading groups who might not find themselves all warming to the characters but it would certainly provide fruitful discussion of the issues raised.
Waking Lions was published by Pushkin Press in March 2016 . Many thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for the review copy.